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Parks Board says no more dogs for now at Bull Creek Park

Monday, September 28, 2009 by John Davidson

After months of listening to complaints from dog owners, the Parks and Recreation Board listened one more time last week but still insisted on the closure of Bull Creek District Park for six months beginning in November. The Parks Department wants to replant and restore vegetation there and monitor the level of E. coli in the water, which city staffers contend is being caused by dog feces in the creek.


The off-leash area of the park is a favorite spot for local dog owners, who have opposed efforts to close the park and say the high E. coli is coming from nearby neighborhoods, not from dog droppings in the park. Off-leash advocates lined up to speak against the plan at last Tuesday’s Parks Board meeting.


“It’s unfair to place all the blame on the park,” said Kyle Allen, Vice President of the Bull Creek Dog Off Leash Group. “This is not a Bull Creek problem; it is a City of Austin problem.”


In an attempt at compromise, city staff recommended turning a portion of Emma Long Metropolitan Park into an off-leash dog area while Bull Creek Park is closed, but park board members rejected the idea. Emma Long is already at or near capacity most of the time, they said, and because it runs along Lake Austin there is a chance that allowing an off-leash area near that body of water could contaminate it.


The board asked city staff to look for other, more suitable sites for a temporary off-leash area dog owners could use while Bull Creek Park is closed, and it charged the yet-to-be-named off-leash task force to help find an alternative site.


The board accepted the other staff recommendations to increase enforcement at Bull Creek Park through a park ranger program after the park reopens for a 6-month on-leash evaluation period beginning in April 2010.


The debate over what’s causing high E. coli levels at Bull Creek has been raging for months. Allen and other members of Bull Creek Dog Off Leash Group raised the concern that if Bull Creek Park is closed as an off-leash area in November, it will become permanent.


“We consider these proposals to be irreversible,” said Allen. “They’re going to design a park with landscaping and restoration that is not conducive to ever reopening as an off-leash area.”

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