Dakota and Spartan playing
Liberty Lake residents, "Dakota" and "Spartan", having off-leash fun.

Campaign Makes Tracks for Local Dog Park

in Featured/Parks and Arts
Marla Larson and her husband Steve are pictured at the Liberty Lake Farmers Market with their dogs “Libby” and “Ollie” on Sept. 14. Marla has been collecting signatures in support of a campaign for the first dog park in Liberty Lake.

Marla Larson can’t collect paw marks on her petition for a dog park in Liberty Lake — but she’s already amassed around 300 signatures from humans enthused about the idea.

While Liberty Lake is known for its healthy abundance of trails, parks and open space, Larson says the community still lacks a dedicated site for canines to roam. Research shows that around 50 percent of households in the greater Spokane area include dogs — the fourth highest ratio in the U.S.

“I’ve always wanted a dog park in Liberty Lake,” said Larson who has lived in the area since 1986 with her husband Steve. “I’m hopeful we’re headed in that direction.”

Larson has already appeared at a City Council meeting to pitch the concept and met at City Hall with Council Member Odin Langford and City Administrator Katy Allen. Council is scheduled to revisit the discussion at its next meeting Sept. 17.  Allen said the conversation is “still in the very preliminary stages.”

“Is there a need for a dog park and is it a priority?” Allen stated. “Those are questions for the council to address. From the city’s standpoint, it’s not just the cost of building it, it’s the cost of operating and maintaining it.”

Doug Walton and his dog “Gracie” visited the dog park at state line earlier this month, currently the closest off-leash site to Liberty Lake.

The closest public dog park to Liberty Lake is a sprawling space near the state line overseen by Spokane County. On a sunny Saturday this month, Doug Walton of north Spokane let his Labradoodle “Gracie” run across the ruddy turf amidst a dozen or so other dogs.

“I like this place,” Walton said. “It’s small enough where I can sit here and see where she’s at.”

When told of the growing momentum for a dog park just to the west, Walton was on board.

“I’d be all for a dog park in Liberty Lake,” he said.

Others have less-than-glowing reviews of the state line park, particularly related to the topic of aggressive dogs. Larson said she was “kind of nervous” taking her two dogs, “Libby” and “Ollie” there.

Reviews are mixed for the dog park near the Washington/Idaho border, just east of Liberty Lake. The site is operated by Spokane County.

Mara Crowell, co-owner of Pawpular Companions, a Liberty Lake-based pet supply store, has joined Larson in her campaign. She has heard the concerns about the state line site from customers and says the subject of dog parks in general includes “a lot of grey area.”

“I told Marla we’re here to support her as the local contact for animals,” Crowell said. “Some people are absolutely for it and some are absolutely against it. There are issues like cleanliness and responsibility and dogs interacting with other dogs who may not be vaccinated.”

Crowell acknowledged that a dog park would not be a money generator for the city like a golf course but said there could be other avenues for revenue like charging a fee for use or a membership card for dog owners. She said the store could also sponsor potty pick-up bags.

The state line dog park does not include separate areas for large and small dogs, a concern among some dogowners.

Allen said a proposal for a dog park at Pavillion Park came up around seven years ago but fizzled when a group of residents near the greenspace voiced concerns.

“The challenge we have with a dog park is where do you put it?” Allen said. “Land in Liberty Lake is very expensive. If it does become a priority in our capital facilities plan then we need to unprioritize something else.”

Larson says she knows many residents who take their dogs to fields at local schools. The city requires that visitors to municipal parks keep dogs on leashes.

Allen pointed to property on the north side of the city in the River District that may emerge as a dog park possibility. Greenstone Homes owns the land which is overseen by the local homeowner’s association.

“It’s the only place to this point where there has been some support in a very preliminary way,” Allen said.

Larson said collaborating with a private developer is an option.

“That could happen,” she said. “We’re not talking about a big space here, probably an acre, maybe two.”

The greater Spokane area is the fourth ranked community in the nation when it comes to dog ownership with around 50 percent of households including at least one canine.

Shannon Wesche of Liberty Lake is a veterinarian who supports Larson’s efforts.

“Dog parks are a good way for dogs to socialize,” Wesche said. “The biggest benefit is just to let dogs off their leash and run legally. Obviously, the exercise they get has its own benefits that we all know of.”

Larson is now in the process of forming a committee of residents and local leaders that will look at different approaches and strategies for a dog park.

“I’m hopeful and optimistic it will happen,” she said. “Hopefully sooner than later.”

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Craig Howard began his writing career in grade school as the author of a retrospective on the 1978-79 NBA Champion Seattle SuperSonics. Since earning a degree in Journalism from the University of Oregon, Craig has written professionally since 1997 and worked for newspapers like the Goldendale Sentinel, Spokane Valley News Herald, Liberty Lake Splash and Greater Spokane Valley Current. He has also been a contributing writer for the Seattle Times and Northwest Runner magazine and had editorial cartoons published by the Spokesman-Review. He has covered the Liberty Lake community since 2002. In 2004, Craig received the Exemplary Media Award from the Washington Department of Social and Health Services. He has served as a volunteer for Meals on Wheels, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Spokane County Juvenile Court. Craig is a devoted fan of the Zags, Seattle Mariners and Chicago Cubs. Above all, he enjoys spending time with his three kids, teaching them the finer points of Wiffle Ball.

1 Comment

  1. I have no issue with a dog park and applaud the efforts of the Larsons, who brought petitions and supporters to a City Council meeting. Right now – the issue is NOT on the 5 year plan – so if you believe it should be, let the City Council know now, as budget discussions have already begun!!!

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