Cigarettes out, dogs restricted under proposed park rules
May 6, 2014
By Ari Cetron
New: May 6, 3:57 p.m.
What do you get when you combine soccer, dogs and cigarettes? The Sammamish Parks Department hopes not to find out.
On April 15, Parks Director Jessi Bon presented a series of newly-proposed regulations for parks to the City Council.
The new regulations all but bans dogs from large parts of Sammamish parks. Four-legged friends, even on a leash, would no longer be permitted on athletic fields, in picnic shelters, or in water bodies and their associated beaches, docks and nearby marine areas.
Bon said she understands some dog owners like to take their pets to swim at city lakes, but noted that lakes are sensitive areas ecologically.* She also noted some areas where dogs are currently allowed might also be taken off the list if the animals destroy vegetation.
Councilman Don Gerend was skeptical of the regulations.
“I think we’re setting ourselves up for regulations we’re not going to enforce,” he said.
He noted the new rules would technically prohibit people from bringing dogs to the Pine Lake concerts in the park. That, in turn could set up confrontations between dog owners who ignore the law and those who obey it.
Bon agreed it might be difficult to enforce the ban, but said the council should worry first about setting up the regulations, then focus on increasing enforcement if needed.
The council seemed to generally support Bon’s opinion, noting the idea is to keep the parks safe for everyone, and dogs can be left at home.
“The parks need to be usable by all families, not just the ones who have dogs,” said Mayor Tom Vance.
The rules also call for a general ban on smoking in parks, along with bans on chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes.
“What we’re trying to do is discourage the use of cigarettes in a public facility,” said Parks Commission Chairman Hank Klein.
Councilwoman Nancy Whitten objected to the rules, saying they went too far into regulating a legal behavior – something the city doesn’t usually do.
“There are good reasons for being a big brother and saying you can’t skate at the skate park without a helmet, but we don’t do that,” she said. “I think smokers do have rights. I think this is too broad, and I think we’re in danger of being big brother.”
The rest of the council rejected Whitten’s arguments.
“I’m out for fresh air. I don’t want to smell cigarettes,” Vance said.
Councilman Ramiro Valderrama suggested the city add hookahs to its list of prohibited types of smoking.
Swimming and boating
The regulations also set up rules for swimming and boating. Generally, they forbid boats from going into designated swimming areas. It also designated some swimming areas, particularly at Sammamish Landing Park.
At the park on the Lake Sammamish shore, swimming would be prohibited at the northern dock. It would generally be allowed to the north and east of the south dock. Boats would be allowed on the southern side of the south dock.
Boats would also not be allowed within 50 feet of someone who is swimming.
Gerend noted that on Pine and Beaver lakes, boats are moving slowly, so it might make sense to be more flexible with the regulations there. Bon will investigate that possibility.
The council is set to vote on the regulations May 6.
* This version corrects comments about dogs and their impact on areas near the water.