People, Dogs, and Parks Plan – Draft plan released — Seattle Nature Alliance

Seattle Parks and Recreation has released the long awaited People, Dogs, and Parks Plan draft, a document focused on updating the off leash dog policy in our city parks.

The ‘draft‘ is very long (161 pages) and shows the extent to which Parks went in researching, reviewing, and justifying their options on this very contentious issue. Highlights of the recommendations (pages 41-43) include:

  • No unfenced or mixed use off leash areas in parks
  • No offleash dogs on trails in parks
  • Current offleash budget to be spent on maintenance of current areas, not creation of new ones
  • No new offleash areas with beach access (i.e., on Puget Sound)
  • Several suggestions for finding/creating offleash areas outside of Seattle Parks property

The Seattle Nature Alliance strongly endorses the Draft Plan.offleash dog 3

With limited greenspace, we believe the needs of ‘all people’ outweigh the desires of specialized user groups. Off leash dog owners should not get special privileges for their off leash dog recreation at a cost to other park users, wildlife, and the well being of the park ecosystem. We support passive use in our greenspaces, which does includes dog owners who leash their dogs. We hope, as stated in the draft document, other more appropriate recreation area options become available for what is clearly a dog recreation need.

As this is still a ‘draft’, it has not been approved, and the Board of Park Commissioners, Seattle Parks and Recreation, Seattle City Council will be watching public comment and reaction closely. We encourage everyone to either testify in person, or send a letter to the Parks board by July 28, 2016. (See details in letter below) :


The Draft People, Dogs and Parks Plan is now posted for public review and comment.  The Draft, released for public review on June 21, 2016, will not be finalized until late September, 2016.  A public hearing by the Board of Park Commissioners (Board) will be held:
July 28, 2016
6:30 – 9:00 pm
Northgate Community Center
10510 5th Avenue, NE
Seattle, WA 98125

Public testimony at the Board meeting will be limited to two minutes per person.  Public comment may also be submitted in writing and will have equal weight as oral testimony.  Written comments should be addressed to: Rachel.Acosta@Seattle.Gov and should be submitted by August 17, 2016 in order to allow the Board to review all public input prior to the September 8, 2016 Board meeting.  The Board will make recommendations to the Superintendent of Parks and Recreation at the September 8, 2016 meeting of the Board.

The September 8, 2016 meeting of the Board will be held:
6:30 – 9:00 pm
100 Dexter Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98109

This plan has also been sent to the Seattle City Council who may review it in the Parks, Seattle Center, Libraries and Waterfront Committee. 

The Superintendent will finalize the plan after considering public testimony, receiving recommendations from the Board, and input from the Seattle City Council.

Rachel Acosta
ABGC/Park Board Coordinator
Seattle Parks and Recreation
100 Dexter Avenue N
Seattle, WA 98109


For more from the Seattle Nature Alliance on this issue, see our earlier post, Seattle should not approve off-leash in natural parks. As you will see at the end, we love dogs, but recognize the limitations and responsibilities that come with dog ownership in a dense urban area.

the Phantom Orchid appeals to off trail dog mentality

Return of the Phantom Orchid

(Guest post from Stewart Wechsler)

May 21, 2016
While Lincoln Park is blessed to have a number of indigenous plants that survive nowhere else in Seattle, there is one of these that stands out like no other, as both beautiful and the most unique and special. It is the Phantom Orchid – Cephalanthera austiniae (in older references as Eburophyton austiniae). This plant has no leaves and no chlorophyll, and it has nothing visible above ground when it is not flowering or setting seed. With no leaves and chlorophyll, you ask how does it grow? It is fully dependent on the fungus underground that it is attached to, while the fungus is dependent on the tree roots that it is attached to. So if anyone would get the bad idea that they might want this beautiful and unique flower in their garden, they should know that if it is dug up, it is killed, because the essential 3 way connection between the orchid, the fungus and the tree is broken. Not only is there nothing visible above ground when it isn’t bloom and seed time, they don’t bloom every year, and the number of flower stalks that come up in any year they do bloom is quite variable. Phantom Orchids have been recorded not blooming for up to 17 years then blooming again. At Lincoln Park the first place I found one flower stalk, about 10 years ago, it sent up another stalk for each of the next 2 years, but since then I haven’t seen any flowers at that spot. While I suspect that orchid is dead, each year I keep checking, because I can’t know. No wonder these pale flower stalks, with flowers that have no more pigment than a yellow lower lip, that appear, then disappear, are called “Phantom” Orchids.
The time I first found a Phantom Orchid in Lincoln Park, there had only been one University of Washington herbarium record of this species for King County. It was one collected in 1937, by Sister Mary Milburge. Where? ­ In Lincoln Park! (Since then a second Phantom Orchid was collected in King County in the Preston area.) Due to its rarity statewide, the Phantom Orchid is on the state’s rare and protected plant list.
July 4, 2015
The biggest reason to tell people about these orchids, in spite of some risk that some rudely inconsiderate person might try digging one up, is to use the problem they have had to teach people about a problem for the park’s whole natural community. Every year that these orchids do bloom, a number of the flower stalks are knocked down before they can set seed. It seems most likely this is from the heavy traffic in the park of off trail, off leash and long leash dogs, with claws designed for digging, and who dig the forest floor and its vegetation with every leap, every pull, and sometimes just for fun. Last year we had 5 orchid stalks come up, but 3 were trampled before they could exchange pollen with another orchid and set seed. If our remaining Phantom Orchids don’t produce seed before they die, Lincoln Park will have no more Phantom Orchids. So before you allow your dog to run free in this most special remaining piece of nature left in Seattle, consider the dilemma of our Phantom Orchids struggling to have sex and babies before they die!
­Stewart Wechsler

(pictures by Mark Ahlness)


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