The goal of this proposal is to balance the needs of the estimated 40 percent of the City of Newburyport’sresidents who own a dog with the needs of those residents who do not own a dog. This proposal provides legalopportunities for dog owners to allow their dogs to be off leash, but only in designated areas, at specified times,and subject to applicable rules. This proposal presents an efficient and equitable resolution to the sometimescompeting needs for the use of the City’s limited parks and similar public spaces on the part of Newburyport’staxpaying, voting residents.The goal of this proposal is not to establish a dog park, an inequitable strategy, which would promote exclusionand intolerance by isolating and limiting a certain group of residents to a single location for their recreationalneeds. Additionally, unlike a single dog park, the designated off leash areas under this proposal are distributedgeographically throughout our City, thereby avoiding parking problems, congestion and other impacts that wouldresult from a dog park approach. Instead, this proposal is intended to accommodate fairly as well as reasonablythe needs of all residents who wish to use the City’s parks and similar spaces. Moreover, this proposal excludesthe vast majority of the City’s public spaces from being designated off leash areas. Numerous categories of areasincluding, for example, school grounds, athletic fields, playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts and official “openspace” all are excluded from being off leash areas. Likewise, the boardwalk and rail trail, which frequently areused for dog walking, are to remain as on leash areas.The strategy presented in this proposal, which, again, provides that dog owners may allow their dogs to be off leash only in designated areas during certain times and subject to specified rules, is neither innovative nor unique – it is based, in large part, on successful programs already in place in several other communities, namelyBrookline and Cambridge, MA, Portsmouth, NH and Portland, ME, to list a few.This proposal includes, among other things:
A discussion of the needs and benefits of this designated off leash proposal
A section addressing potential concerns
Examples of off leash programs from numerous communities, with associated supporting information inappendices
A Table of Designated Off leash Areas and Times and accompanying Rules of EtiquetteThis proposal was developed in the spirit of finding a compromise that responds to the legitimate interests of allresidents. It not only reflects successful off leash programs in effect elsewhere, but also the reported experiencesof local officials involved in oversight of those programs. Additionally, this proposal is premised on the following:
Designated off leash areas result in improved dog behavior, which benefits the community as a whole:Dogs allowed to exercise off leash make better neighbors than do under exercised dogs. Dogs thatreceive adequate exercise, through vigorous play or opportunities to run, are less likely to create anuisance, bark excessively, destroy property, or exhibit aggressive or other antisocial behavior.
Designated off leash areas foster community involvement: In an era when people often are reluctant or even afraid to approach or converse with a stranger, designated off leash areas bring people together,which creates a greater sense of community and promotes community involvement. In fact, the authors of this very proposal met one another while recreating with their dogs at Cashman Park. They volunteeredsignificant time to develop a solution to an important issue the City currently is facing.
Designated off leash areas promote compliance: Unduly restrictive access policies not only areinequitable, but also are counterproductive. Unreasonably harsh and overly punitive leash laws canoperate to promote conflict. When an approach to restrictions is fair and reasonable, people are more aptto comply. Off leash spaces reportedly reduce the resources law enforcement and animal control officialsmust spend on enforcing leash laws, allowing them to devote their time to other areas. Havingdesignated, legal off leash opportunities reduces the likelihood that dogs will be allowed off leash in other recreational places or at times when off leash access is not allowed.The City of Newburyport should be committed to making some public lands available for all residents to useenjoyably. As a community, we need to respect and accommodate each other and to share equitably the publicspaces that we all seek to enjoy.