The Bend Metro Park and Recreation District, hoping to make Bend a more "dog-friendly" place, wants to create two more dog parks - fenced areas where dog owners can let their animal companions run around off the leash - by this summer. (Currently there's only one Park & Rec-sanctioned off-leash area, at Big Sky Park on the eastside.)
The favored location for one of the new dog facilities is Robert W. Sawyer Park, a 45-acre expanse of native grass, trees and rocks along the Deschutes River on the northwest edge of town that also includes an "improved" area with turf and irrigation. Sawyer might make a fine location for a dog park except for one detail: It's also used regularly by the members of Bend's Ultimate Club and other "alternative" sport enthusiasts, like kickballers, for practices and pick-up games.
With fields at a premium for youth sports like soccer and baseball and organized adult sports like rec softball, there aren't a whole lot of places for Ultimate players and kickballers to go if they're displaced. And it doesn't take much imagination to see that dogs running around during an Ultimate game or practice would create chaos - not to mention depositing substances on the playing field that would make footing treacherous and the atmosphere malodorous. So the members of the Bend Ultimate Club are not at all happy about Park & Rec turning the field where they've been playing for the past 16 years into a canine romping ground.
They have a legitimate gripe. It's probably true that the Bend area could use one or two more dog parks. Advocates point out that Portland has 31 dog parks, or roughly one for every 18,000 residents; to have a comparable ratio, Bend would need approximately four dog parks for its 75,000 residents.
But Bend isn't Portland. Although our area is getting more urbanized, there are still plenty of places on the fringes of the city and beyond where people can let their dogs run free. Park & Rec also is negotiating with the Forest Service to get 400 acres of forest land off Century Drive designated as an off-leash area.
Even granting the need for new dog parks, why does one have to be located at Sawyer? The field there that Bend Ultimate players use is mowed and irrigated. Dogs don't need a level, manicured, grassy area to run around on; they're quite happy with any old patch of dirt and sagebrush.
The Park & Rec board has to make the final decision on whether to turn Bend Ultimate Club's playing field into a dog park. We hope they'll agree with us that this poorly conceived idea should get THE BOOT.