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To Leash or Not To Leash: Dogs at Goodale Park

On any given day numerous dogs can be seen running free at Goodale Park. And this has created tension between some park goers who think dogs should be on leashes and dog owners who disagree. Several neighborhood organizations have teamed up with the city to try to come to some kind of compromise.

There was standing room only at Goodale Park's shelter house Thursday night. About 75 people crowded in the building to hear three concepts that could reduce the growing tension between dog owners and other people who use the park.

Goodale Park is a popular place for people to bring their dogs to run and play. And many dog owners say they, too, enjoy the fellowship. But there are others, some who own dogs and some who do not, who don't like dogs running free.

The Friends of Goodale Park and the Victorian Village Society are working with the Department of Recreation and Parks to come up with a plan they hope will appease everyone. Rob Petit is the president of the Victorian Village Society.

"Let's try to listen, let's try to learn as we go and let's try to get to some solutions," Petit said.

The groups offered three possibilities. One, have a fenced-in dog area within Goodale Park. Two, have designated off-leash areas and times within the park. And three, fence in Wheeler Park, a five acre area located behind Giant Eagle on Neil Avenue, to be used as a dog park.

Coleen Dyer has lived in the Victorian Village area for more than 20 years. She does not go to Goodale Park as much as she used to after an incident that happened this summer.

"While riding my bicycle through the park I was chased by a furiously barking German Shepard who caught up with me, bit me. It shouldn't have happened," Dyer said.

Dyer said she doesn't dislike dogs. She said she used to work at an animal shelter near Atlanta and cared for dogs quarantined on bite cases.

"These weren't bad dogs. They weren't mean dogs. But two factors were almost always a part of those cases: dogs off leash and inattentive owners," Dyer said.

Dyer likes the idea of turning Wheeler Park into a fenced in dog park. She said it sounds like an ideal place for unleashed dogs to get their exercise and insure the safety of Goodale Park goers.

Tonya Oberyszyn lives in Italian Village. She's been bringing her 16-year-old dog to Goodale Park since it was a puppy, and said she values having a park within walking distance from her home.

"I can understand people not wanting dogs running up to them if they're not dog people. And I think there has to be a solution where everybody can be happy with it. And either restrict it to a certain area of the park," Oberyszyn said.

Currently dogs must be on a leash or be in direct control by its owner. But the Department of Recreation and Parks is considering a rule requiring dogs to be on a leash in city parks unless otherwise posted.

Jen Kiko, who moved to Victorian Village partly because of Goodale Park, is a new dog owner. Kiko said she lets her dog off its leash in the center of the park where many other dogs run free. She was open to all three ideas.

"They're all kind of good options. What do you want to happen? See, I really think Wheeler Park is a great giant space? But I kind of think it's horribly ugly, and I wouldn't want to walk past this gorgeous park to walk behind a Giant Eagle to let my dog run around," Kiko said. The city opened its first dog park about a year ago on the city's east side. And there are plans to open several more. The Department of Recreation and Parks will have the final say about what will happen at Goodale Park.