It’s a big day for dog owners who like to let their pets run, jump and play off leash. Nearly five months after the Bend Park & Recreation District board approved the opening or expansion of seven off-leash areas around the city, volunteers, dog trainers and district staff members will be in the parks today to mark the first day dogs can legally run free. Jan Taylor, the district’s community relations manager, said officials are still putting up signs and installing benches and fences but are ready to welcome visitors.
Though until today the off-leash areas haven’t technically been open, dog owners have been trying out the parks for weeks, and Taylor said things have been going well.
“Those who are dog advocates and those who are also more cautious about dogs are liking the idea that there are places where they will know that dogs are playing off leash, rather than it being a surprise,” she said.
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. today, visitors to the off-leash areas will be able to talk to dog trainers about off-leash etiquette, get information on dog nutrition or watch dogs participate in a Frisbee demonstration, among other activities. Volunteers from DogPAC, a local nonprofit group for dog owners, also will be around to help out.
Jan Gifford, a DogPAC board member, said dog owners should consider checking out the parks without their dogs in tow to get a feel for how the parks work and see if their dogs would be comfortable in an off-leash environment.
Once the grand opening celebration is over, dog owners should think about pitching in as volunteer stewards of the off-leash areas, Gifford said. The district is still looking for people who would be willing to visit the parks and share their experiences and suggestions with district officials to help make the parks better.
“The best parks in the country are those parks that have a core of people who take ownership and pride in that dog park and keep things running smoothly,” she said.
— Erin Golden, The Bulletin