Bainbridge parks opens off-leash dog park this week

After a decisive vote in April that selected Strawberry Hill Park as the location for a new off-leash dog park, work to get the park open by this summer has been smooth sailing.

Officials with the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Parks and Recreation District have announced that the finishing touches on the park will be installed by this week.

In the meantime, the fencing is up and dog owners are welcome.

“It’s open now,” said Park Services Superintendent Dan Hamlin.

“We’re not holding anyone out.”

Signage directing visitors through Strawberry Hill to the new off-leash dog park, informational signs, dog waste kiosks and park benches, Hamlin said, are on their way.

A mulch trail will also be put down along the inside perimeter of the fenced area to allow visitors to make use of the park year-around.

Hamlin told the parks board last week that the park would be officially complete and open to the public by Thursday, July 31.

A grand opening ceremony has been scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 9.

April’s vote to bring the dog park to Strawberry Hill Park ended an almost four-year debate and two-year project to open an off-leash park at the former landfill on Vincent Road.

Some citizens fought for shared use, off-leash hours at certain public parks, a directive that would have allowed dogs to roam freely at parks or trails used by residents and families.

The board agreed, however, that shared usage would not be considered until further notice. Instead, focus would be given to completing a fenced dog park at Strawberry Hill and to fundraising for future dog parks.

Some board members noted that until citizens follow the current on-leash rules for parks and trails, shared usage would be a difficult option to weigh in on.

The two-year project to build an off-leash dog park on Vincent Road also came to an end last spring, when parks officials realized it was turning into more time and money spent on a permit process than they could justify.

By tabling the Vincent Road proposal, the parks board said during its April meeting, that Bainbridge residents could start seeing construction this summer rather than wait another four years.

Three months later, the board’s words rang true.

A seven-member dog park committee made up of Bainbridge citizens have worked to develop a design, craft park rules, and have the park completed by this August.

“And they’re ready to start talking about where to put the next one, so we all should be prepared for that,” Hamlin said.

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