Now that the former Ballinger Golf Course located on the Edmonds/Mountlake Terrace border has opened to the public as a city park, Mountlake Terrace Animal Control Officer Elena McKee has a challenge: reminding the public that the park, while open to dogs, is not an off-leash park.
McKee recognizes the temptation for dog owners — the former golf course is a large open space with plenty of room to run. But the reality is, Mountlake Terrace City Code requires dogs in all city parks — including Ballinger — to be leashed, and their owners face a hefty $200 penalty if they violate the law. The exception, of course, is the Mountlake Terrace Off-Leash Park at 5303 228th St. S.W., where dogs are free to run. Nearby Edmonds also has an off-leash area at the waterfront, next to Marina Beach.
McKee said she has been focusing some of her time at Ballinger Park recently in an effort to educate dog owners about the law. “What I’ve found is a majority of the offenders are from outside Mountlake Terrace, with probably the largest number coming from Edmonds,” she said, although visitors from Shoreline, Lynnwood, Bothell and Lake Forest Park also have been allowing their dogs to run loose.
So far, McKee has been giving violators an initial warning, but lets offenders know that a second contact will result in a $200 per dog per penalty. Anyone committing a fourth offense will face a misdemeanor criminal charge, she added.
McKee says the main reason for the leash requirement is simple: keeping both people and dogs safe. “Even if your dog is friendly, not everybody likes dogs,” she said. “Some people are deathly afraid of dogs and they may hurt themselves trying to get away from the dog.”
In addition, Ballinger Park attracts a fair number of elderly visitors who come to walk, “and if your dog is rambunctious — even if’s friendly — you don’t want to knock down a senior,” she added.
Owners tend to think their dog will be friendly to every person they meet, “but there’s always going to be a personality that will influence how they react,” McKee explained. “They are instinctual animals and you don’t know what’s going to flip their trigger. A lot of people think they have perfect animals but they don’t.”
Equally important is ensuring the safety of the dog, which is hard to do when they are running free. Ballinger Park is home to wildlife, including coyotes and foxes, she said. “Whether they’re friendly isn’t going to impact whether they run into something that isn’t friendly.” There’s also the potential danger of something left behind, such as poisoned food.
Dogs pose a particular danger to each other when they are unleashed, because the owner can’t pull the dog away from a potentially bad situation, she said. “If they are unleashed and they approach the other dog, you have no control over their reactions,” she said. “So there could be a really bad outcome. Dog-to-dog interaction, you never know what’s going to happen.”
McKee said she understands that many community members have expressed a desire for at least a portion of Ballinger Park to be dedicated to an off-leash area, but so far, city officials have not been supportive of that idea. (See an earlier story on the park master planning process here.)
But McKee emphasized that dog owners still need to be responsible for their animals, even if they do visit an off-leash park.
“You enter (an off-leash park) at your own risk,” she said. “You understand you are going into an area where there are loose dogs.”
And if there are personalty conflicts? “Owners are expected to be alert and intervene,” she added.
McKee also provided this list of local off-leash dog parks, for reference:
Local Off Leash Dog Parks (Snohomish County & Shoreline)
Cavalero Hill Community Dog Park: Three-acre off-leash dog area with one-quarter-acre shy-dog area at 7500 20th St. SE Cavalero Hill Road, Everett; bring your own water.
Clover Valley: Off-leash area near baseball fields at 799 Ault Field Road, Oak Harbor; water spigot available; 360-321-4049; www.fetchparks.org.
Double Bluff: Beach access with waste bags, water fountain and rinse station at 6325 Double Bluff Road, Freeland; off-leash area begins where a windsock on a flagpole marks the boundary; www.fetchparks.org.
Eagle Park: Dog park with grassy area and shade at 701 E. Galena St., Granite Falls; www.ci.granite-falls.wa.us.
East Side Park: The site is equipped with fencing, dog waste stations including bag dispensers, park benches, rules signs and a portable restroom. Water is contributed to the water barrel by park patrons. 1760 NE 150th St, Shoreline (SE corner of the Fircrest campus)
Edmonds: Off-leash dog park with swimming area and agility equipment; 498 Admiral Way, Edmonds; www.olae.org.
Howarth Park: Off-leash area with beach access; 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Oct. 31 and 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. after Nov. 1; 1127 Olympic Blvd., Everett; www.everettwa.org.
Loganberry Lane: Off-leash woodland trails; 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Oct. 31, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. after Nov. 1; 18th Avenue W. (Loganberry Lane), Everett; www.everettwa.org.
Lowell Park: Fenced off-leash area north of tennis courts; 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Oct. 31 and 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. after Nov. 1; 4605 S. Third Ave., Everett. www.everettwa.org.
Marguerite Brons Memorial Park: Fenced area with meadow, wooded trails and small dog area; includes water, bulletin board, toys and waste bags; 2837 Becker Road, Clinton; www.fetchparks.org.
Mountlake Terrace: Three-quarter-acre fenced off-leash dog park in the woods with double gate system, benches, information kiosk and waste disposal container; dawn to dusk daily; 5303 228th St. SW, Mountlake Terrace; www.cityofmlt.com.
Oak Harbor dog park: Fenced off-leash area with water station and waste bags; Technical Drive on Whidbey Island; www.fetchparks.org for directions.
Patmore Pit: Fenced off-leash area with separate fenced agility area and small dog area with toys, water and waste bags provided; 530 Patmore Road, Coupeville; www.fetchparks.org.
Richmond Beach Saltwater Park: Unfenced area approximately 300 ft of beach beginning just south of where the bridge exits onto the sand. This ½ acre site offers sandy beaches, water access and nearby restrooms and parking. Please note that active railroad tracks are accessible beyond the end of the off-leash area, so use caution when visiting with dogs who like to explore. 2021 NW 190th St, Shoreline
Shoreview Park: Approximately 2.5 acres and is located in the NE corner of the Shoreview Park in an open lot adjacent to Shoreline community college. The city has added fencing, surface improvements, dog waste stations including bag dispensers, rules signs and a portable restroom. There is also a shy/small dog area and a water barrel. Water is contributed by park patrons. 320 NW Innis Arden Way, Shoreline
Strawberry Fields for Rover: Off-leash three-acre fenced park; 7 a.m. to dusk daily; southeast corner of the Strawberry Fields Athletic Complex, 6100 152nd St. NE, Marysville; www.m-dog.org.
Tails and Trails Japanese Gulch Dog Park: ¾ acre fully fenced, double-gated off-leash dog area that features a grassy lawn, agility equipment, benches, clean-up bag dispensers and trash cans. 1100 5th St, Mukilteo
Tambark Creek Park: Off-leash dog area opening soon, 17217 35th Ave SE, Bothell; www.co.snohomish.wa.us.
Wiggly Field: Off-leash fenced area with agility equipment at Sky River Park, 413 Sky River Parkway, Monroe; www.monroewa.gov.
Willis Tucker Park: Off-leash fenced dog area with shy-dog area; 7 a.m. to dusk; 6705 Puget Park Drive, Snohomish; www.co.snohomish.wa.us.