Dog owners who bring their pets to Baxter Woods through July 31 now have to keep them on leashes.
The city’s new ordinance on dogs in the 32-acre park in Deering Center, between Stevens and Forest avenues, took effect April 1. It requires dogs to be kept on an 8-foot leash at all times through July and restricts off-leash dog hours between Aug. 1 and March 31 to 5 a.m.-9 a.m. and 3 p.m.-10 p.m.
When dogs are off-leash they must be under voice control, which essentially means a dog will return to its owner when called. The times during the day when dogs are required to be leashed coordinates with schedules at nearby schools, when students might be using the park.
The ordinance was approved by the City Council on Oct. 5, 2020, by an 8-1 vote, following discussion and debate that date as far back as 2014. The proposal to limit off-leash dog hours in the park, recommended early last year by the council’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee, consistently drew large numbers of dog owners opposed to the idea.
City park employees have said Baxter Woods produces the most complaints about off-leash dogs, ranging from injuries they allegedly cause to owners failing to pick up dog poop. It has also developed the reputation of being a “dog park,” which technically it is not.
The restriction on off-leash dogs is also designed to protect the mating season for ground birds that nest in the park. Part of the park will also be dedicated to a habitat restoration area for these birds.