The second of three public meetings at went well Wednesday to gather public opinion about a pilot program that would allow off-leashed dogs in three parks in Los Gatos.
It went so well, in fact, that members of the Parks and Public Works Department in attendance had trouble quieting a crowd that wanted to be heard.
“How can it work for the entire UK and not work here?” asked one unidentified resident who attended the meeting.
The pilot program that the Town Council agreed to explore during its March 19 meeting would allow dogs off leashes between certain hours of the day in unfenced sections of three of the town's 14 parks: Live Oak Manor, Bachman, and La Rinconada.
Town officials hope feedback obtained during the meetings—a previous one was held April 25 and the last one is scheduled for May 23 at the same location—will help determine what those hours of the day will be and how long the test program will run for.
Some hours that Los Gatos Parks and Facilities Superintendent Christy Wolter gave the audience were 7-9 a.m., with the potential for more hours later in the day between 6-8 p.m.
“Park use overall is pretty minimal at that time of the morning,” said Wolter.
The hope is to minimize confrontations between dogs and residents, if not erase them completely. That's difficult considering there are currently no plans for the areas to be fenced in.
“Once you fence in an area, you can't use it as anything other than [for an] off-leash area. It creates too much of a physical separation area,” said Los Gatos Parks and Public Works Director Todd Capurso.
However, the idea of dogs running loose has not sat well with many residents. Currently, such activity is illegal in town and dogs must be leashed at all times.
Capurso gathered opinions and surveys that the department received and acknowledged that roughly two-thirds of the responses were actually against the pilot program.
Some public concerns included confrontations between dogs and people, the amount of dog waste that would be left behind, and the condensing of dog owners into one specific time of day, making the park very crowded.
“This is a subject that many people are very passionate about, which is why we are conducting a community process, so that we can get that input and make sure that, if we propose something, we take into considerations any concerns and thoughts,” said Wolter.
One audience member, Michael Hayes, wants the pilot to happen. “It's like a marriage. You think you understand everything you're getting into, but you don't know until you're home together,” said Hayes.
By the end of the three public meetings, the plan is for the Los Gatos Park Commission to make a recommendation about the program to the Town Council based on the public input. From there, the recommendation will be brought to the Council on June 18.
However, whether the recommendation favors an off-leash program remains unknown.