Portland, OR Off-Leash Program
Status: Initiated in 1999
Portland has 31 off-leash areas (OLAs). Five are fenced, all-day areas. The remaining 26 are unfenced, with seasonal hours compatible with traditional park use patterns and adjacent uses. Boundary markers are in place at the unfenced sites. There are signs in each off-leash area with maps, rules, and a place to post notices. Users are asked to bring their own scoop bags.
Parks are shared community spaces. As our population grows and diversifies, parks face increasing and often conflicting demands. The dog population in Portland is also increasing - along with the popularity of large breeds. While dogs have always been welcome on-leash in Portland parks, for several years dog owners had asked the City to provide legal off-leash opportunities. At the same time, complaints related to off-leash dogs were on the increase. In an effort to address these issues, PP&R established an Off-Leash Task Force in 1999. As a result of their recommendations, three fenced off-leash areas were in place by 2000 at Gabriel Park, Chimney Park, and East Delta Park, and a large unfenced area was available at West Delta Park. Also, in response to another recommendation by the Task Force, PP&R developed an enforcement program in partnership with Multnomah County Animal Services.
The pilot program was approved by City Council in June 2003. Council instructed PP&R to identify additional, geographically-distributed, off-leash opportunities and open them to the public by September 2005. PP&R asked for site recommendations from neighborhood coalitions based on siting criteria established by the Task Force. Sites were then mapped and reviewed for equitable distribution across the city. Special consideration was given to parks that were the most-used by dog owners and where conflicts had arisen in order to provide a positive solution to an existing problem. The final step in the process was to visit each site and review the location with the park maintenance staff to identify potential technical difficulties. The sites selected were diverse and accessible to residents across the city.
There were 27 SHARED sites and 6 YES sites included in the pilot program. At SHARED sites (Seasonal Hours at Reserved Sites), off-leash use was allowed within a designated area during specified hours. Generally this was 5:00-9:00am and 4:00pm-closing from November 1-April 30; 5:00-9:00am and 8:00pm-closing from May 1-October 31. Two YES (Year-round Exercise Sites) sites were added to those previously available - at Normandale and Brentwood Parks. A third was planned at East Holladay Park.
In October 2003, a citywide Off-Leash Advisory Committee (OLAC) was appointed by the Director of Portland Parks & Recreation to build an off-leash program that balanced the needs of dog owners with those of other park users. The committee was also charged with e valuat ing the success of the program and recommend ing policy, management or siting changes. Committee members included representatives nominated by the seven Neighborhood Coalitions as well as individuals with specific expertise and the ability to weigh off-leash issues in the context of PP&R's overall mission. Members were appointed for a two-year term.
The one-year pilot program was evaluated by the Off Leash Advisory Committee which met monthly. In addition to the committee members, input was provided by PP&R staff who visit parks daily, Multnomah County Animal Services deputies who are in the parks, and phone calls and emails from citizens to County Animal Services and PP&R. The committee conducted its final evaluation of the program in September 2004 and submitted its recommendations to the City Council; these were approved in in December 2004. The final meeting of the committee took place on Ocotber 27, 2005.