Dog issues at wetland, Barnes Butte land spur city action
City of Prineville officials are considering a code change that will tighten the rules on dogs at two of its recreational areas.
Recent complaints about dogs off of leashes and dog messes at the Crooked River Wetland Complex and on city-owned Barnes Butte land have spurred a move to change the city code to prevent further issues.
"With the completion of the wetland project and (purchase) of Barnes Butte (property), all of the sudden the City of Prineville is in the business of managing parks, which we really don't do," said City Engineer Eric Klann. "I really wanted to keep the rules as minimal as possible, but we are getting too many complaints about dogs being off leash, dogs being out of control, and people not taking care of the dog waste."
While some organizations could simply post a sign requiring people to keep their dogs on a leash and to clean up after their messes, the city faces some additional steps before they can make such requirements.
"We have to update our code because what it currently says is basically dogs must be on a leash at listed public parks," he explained. The parks listed are all managed by the Crook County Parks and Recreation District.
Klann said that neither the wetland nor the Barnes Butte property are officially designated as parks, therefore the code does not technically apply to them. Further muddying the waters, the wetland is actually located on county property.
"We are basically modifying the code to say that on any city property owned, leased or controlled by the city you have to keep your dog on a leash," he said.
Once that change is made, the city is within its legal rights to post a sign making the requirements.
Enforcement of the new rules, assuming the code changes are approved, would follow any future complaints filed.
"If there is an issue – say a dog is off its leash and attacks another dog – the police can be involved and there are ramifications," Klann said.
The decision to tighten the rules at the two new recreation areas did not come easily.
"It is disappointing to me that we have to do this," Klann remarked. "It is always nice to have a place to let your dog run around, but some people didn't control their dogs and we got complaints."
Regarding dog messes, the wetland features locations where people can get plastic bags to clean them up, and the city has already ordered some more to install throughout the Barnes Butte property.
Whether or not the two properties in question would ever become official parks is still in doubt. While they are now the two largest recreational spaces in the community, Klann said it is difficult to define them as parks in the traditional sense.
"The wetland is a pretty unique facility in that it's our wastewater treatment plant but also serves as a recreational area," he said.
Meanwhile, a committee is meeting regularly to decide how best to use the Barnes Butte property. That process will include public outreach.
"We really need to go through that public process to determine how we want to define it," Klann said.
The Prineville City Council will likely decide on the proposed code change after it is presented at the next regular business meeting Tuesday evening.