Friends of Clark Park vote to post hours for off-leash dogs in the Bowl (updated)

October 20, 2015

UPDATE (10:50 a.m.): The Friends of Clark Park (FoCP) voted last night to recommend to the City’s Department of Parks and Recreation that limited hours be established when off-leash dogs are permitted at the Clark Park Bowl, the latest move in the park’s more than decade-long canine conundrum. The recommendation for permitted hours is daily from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., though, as in the past, enforcement of the new rule will be tricky.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 9.02.34 AM

The “fastest dog” competition during the 2011 Bark in the Park. (Photo West Philly Local).

The vote followed a discussion about off-leash dogs that included suggestions of stepped up enforcement by Parks and Recreation rangers or University City District’s bicycle patrol. FoCP board members agreed that a compromise was to post signs with hours for off-leash dogs, which are prohibited in public areas in Philadelphia but have been a fixture in Clark Park for years.

Tight enforcement risks alienating “a community that is one of the more dedicated to the park,” said resident Valerie Ross, who lives near the park. People who run their dogs in the Bowl often help clean up trash there, she said. And park events sometimes focus on dogs, including the annual Bark in the Park (24 years and counting) and even a corporate-sponsored, dog-friendly singles meet-up last year.

But complaints, including some at last night’s meeting, focused on off-leash dogs’ interactions with leashed dogs and children and adults who are afraid of dogs. Ross said the off-leash dogs are rarely a problem. 

“The dogs off-leash at the Bowl tend to be highly socialized,” she said.

A similar enforcement argument surfaced in 2004, when the FoCP considered advocating for a fenced dog run in the park, but decided instead to increase leash enforcement. The issue has popped up occasionally since then.

The dog debate and another discussion focused on trash removal reflect a dramatic increase in park usage over the past decade. FoCP Board member Tony West, who helps handle large events at the 9-acre park, said usage has quadrupled.

“It can’t be compared to what it was 15 to 20 years ago,” said FoCP board member Tony West.

Board members said that Clark Park and Malcolm X Park are the two most heavily used neighborhood parks in the city.

That use has also increased trash problems. Trash cans are often overflowing, particularly after heavy weekend use in the summer. FoCP members proposed several solutions, including: pressing the city’s Parks and Recreation department to fund more labor for clean-up; asking large event organizers to do more cleaning; and organizing more volunteer clean-up efforts.

Mike Lyons

19 Comments For This Post

  1. Kathleen Says:

    Correction: Friends of Clark Park voted to RECOMMEND to the City’s Department of Parks and Recreation that limited hours be establishing during which dogs would be allowed off-leash. Only the City has the authority to do this.

  2. Dirty Cajun Says:

    I agree with new rules regarding off leash creatures. I was recently accosted by some off leash toddlers, their owner standing 20 yards away looking at a cellphone.

    I will not stand for this, children are bearers of disease and are rarely socialized properly well into their teens. All children should be accompanied ON LEASH at all times with in the park. They are dirty vile things and I hate the way they sully the park. Some even defecate freely in public!

    What will the City do regarding this travesty?!

  3. Another_Neighbor Says:

    No one thinks their dog is the problem…

  4. Dog Mom Says:

    Not exactly true, Another_Neighbor, some of us abide by leash laws. They were put in place for a reason. Clark Park is not a dog park. People who want to visit a dog park have many options in Philly. I would wèlcome this change.

  5. A dog asked me to post this Says:

    I said these people have no poetry in them. But he refuses to believe that.



    The dog trots freely in the street
    and sees reality
    and the things he sees
    are bigger than himself
    and the things he sees
    are his reality
    Drunks in doorways
    Moons on trees
    The dog trots freely thru the street
    and the things he sees
    are smaller than himself
    Fish on newsprint
    Ants in holes
    Chickens in Chinatown windows
    their heads a block away
    The dog trots freely in the street
    and the things he smells
    smell something like himself
    The dog trots freely in the street
    past puddles and babies
    cats and cigars
    poolrooms and policemen
    He doesn’t hate cops
    He merely has no use for them
    and he goes past them
    and past the dead cows hung up whole
    in front of the San Francisco Meat Market
    He would rather eat a tender cow
    than a tough policeman
    though either might do
    And he goes past the Romeo Ravioli Factory
    and past Coit’s Tower
    and past Congressman Doyle
    He’s afraid of Coit’s Tower
    but he’s not afraid of Congressman Doyle
    although what he hears is very discouraging
    very depressing
    very absurd
    to a sad young dog like himself
    to a serious dog like himself
    But he has his own free world to live in
    His own fleas to eat
    He will not be muzzled
    Congressman Doyle is just another
    fire hydrant
    to him
    The dog trots freely in the street
    and has his own dog’s life to live
    and to think about
    and to reflect upon
    touching and tasting and testing everything
    investigating everything
    without benefit of perjury
    a real realist
    with a real tale to tell
    and a real tail to tell it with
    a real live
    democratic dog
    engaged in real
    free enterprise
    with something to say
    about ontology
    something to say
    about reality
    and how to see it
    and how to hear it
    with his head cocked sideways
    at streetcorners
    as if he is just about to have
    his picture taken
    for Victor Records
    listening for
    His Master’s Voice
    and looking
    like a living questionmark
    into the
    great gramaphone
    of puzzling existence
    with its wondrous hollow horn
    which always seems
    just about to spout forth
    some Victorious answer
    to everything

    Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “Dog” from A Coney Island of the Mind: Poems. Copyright © 1958 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

    Source: A Coney Island of the Mind: Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1958)

    Lawrence Ferlinghetti b. 1919

  6. Strongforu Says:

    There’s a nice fenced dog park just a couple blocks away at 48th Street.

  7. keldamidget Says:

    you have to be a “member” of the dog park at 48th and the waiting list is quite long last time I checked into it….for more information on the cost, waiting list, application, etc for the Chester Ave dog park you can go here

  8. doglover Says:

    Having recently moved to the spruce hill area, the ability to have off-leash dogs at Clark Park was a major deciding factor in choosing this neighborhood – the convenience, beauty, and diversity of Clark Park makes it the perfect place to exercise my dog. I simply can’t run for long enough to tire her out, but chasing after squirrels and playing ball in the park greatly improves both of our qualities of life.
    6-9am is simply too short and inconvenient a time to have dogs offleash- it will decrease my presence at both Thursday and Saturday farmers markets, and reduce the value of the neighborhood.

  9. Corey Says:

    My feeling is that the dog bowl is a very nice part of the neighborhood. While the early morning is good, the just pre to post sunset hours I believe is the peak time. I’ve always found dog owners and other users of the park to use good judgment and neighborliness to sort out when/if dogs get to run around off leash. To me, this is a solution without a problem.

  10. lin Says:

    Can FOCP and local doggy-friendly (or not) folks have a ‘friendly’ meeting about this? Given the size of Clark Park, could there be an option to enclose an area in the south end of the park (closest to Woodland) for dogs to run (off leash)? Most dogs DO need to run, as well as to run and play socially with each other!

    -There is just one enclosed dog run in our neighborhood (Chester Ave Dog Park), which is membership only (!) and generally has a wait list.

    -Other dog-friendly parks around town (like east side of Schuylkill in Fitler – public! ) require a very long walk, or drive.

    I believe it is possible to satisfy most everyone (friend-of-dog or not-) if we all just communicate/’play nice’… Again, our dogs do need a public outlet for exercise, besides leash-walking.

    Wonderful poem! Thank you to the dog that asked you to post it. 🙂

  11. mds chill Says:

    If you decide to have a dog in the city, you have to abide by the laws concerning dogs; so if you want your dog to be able to run free, join a dog park or make sure your residence has a yard. Dogs must be on leashes in Philadelphia.

  12. Of dogs & men Says:

    I agree: there is no problem and there hasn’t been one in years so everyone should relax and focus on what bad shape the park is in. And clean up after yourselves and your children. The dirtiest areas are around the playgrounds.

  13. nonesuch Says:

    Last week, my girlfriend and I met up with friends after work and decided to go to the Park. In the bowl, we saw maybe half a dozen dogs off-leash, two of them running after a small child who was screaming at the top of his lungs because he thought he was being attacked. The owner yelled at the kid to stop running, and tried to explain that they were friendly, but this didn’t help much. Meanwhile, another person let his dog off-leash and it promptly proceeded to run around, jump on people, and crash a picnic while the owner chased it around trying to get hold of it. It definitely lessened the value of the park for us. If there were a fenced-in dog run, I’d certainly be a lot happier – but as it is, I’ll definitely avoid the area whenever I see a bunch of dogs off-leash.

  14. Dale Says:

    @ofdogs&men, let’s not get ridiculous trying to make this a kids vs. dogs issue. I don’t think toddlers or their parents are the ones leaving used condoms and beer bottles in the tot lot. That said, I see no problem with any of the dogs that run in the park. The owners who use the park aren’t bringing in dogs that can’t handle it.

  15. Mark Mandel Says:

    @Dale: Read nonesuch’s letter, just above yours. To quote:

    • two [dogs] running after a small child who was screaming at the top of his lungs because he thought he was being attacked
    • another person let his dog off-leash and it promptly proceeded to run around, jump on people, and crash a picnic

    If that’s what you consider “no problem” and not “dogs that can’t handle it”, I’d hate to see what you would consider a REAL dog problem. Maybe biting toddlers and sending them to the hospital, knocking people over for scrapes and concussions, and destroying picnics, hm?

  16. Of dogs & men Says:

    I didn’t say anything about condoms and beer bottles. That was more like ten years ago, when none of these frightened surburbans would get near Clark Park. No, the trash around the kiddie lots is juice boxes, potato chip bags, coffee cups and lids, candy wrappers, diapers, wipes, etc. And this melodramatic account of screaming child being chased ended in what? How old was the “child”? Obviously nothing happened to the child. I do know that preteens like to run down into the bowl and try to get dogs to chase them, on dares: nothing happens but the kids scare themselves because the dogs do run playfully after them. And another dog at that *same* moment was running around “crashing a picnic”: what a great amount of dog activity (coming to nothing, by the way), in a very short period of time. I go to the park several times a day and haven’t seen that much (non)action by dogs in 18 years.

  17. Anon Says:

    I have a friend who’s leashed dog was bitten by an unleashed dog at Clark Park, so let’s not pretend that there are never any issues

  18. Bianca Says:

    My leashed dog was bitten by an off leash dog in Clark Park, though the dog was not in the bowl. And what did the owner say as this dog that charged us from 30 feet away at full speed to attack and bite my dog? “He just wants to play!” Leash yr dogs people!

  19. K Says:

    Leashing dogs is cool.

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