Dog lovers in East Lake can rejoice. They are now allowed to take their dogs to East Lake Park, as long as they keep the animals on a leash.
The change was made about six weeks ago, and new signage has been installed at the park, according to Stanley Robinson, public relations coordinator for the Birmingham Park and Recreation Board.
The old signs read, “No dogs allowed” and the new signs read, “Dogs on leash only.” This reflects the rules at most other Birmingham parks, according to Robinson.
In addition, the old rule – at East Lake and, in the past, at some other parks – was not strictly followed by users, according to Robinson.
“The old signage was up, but how could you enforce it unless you had park rangers?” he said. “Finally, we just took down the signage.”
Dog owners should be responsible as they take advantage of the new rule, according to Robinson.
“We’re stressing that they have their pet on a leash and under their control so everybody gets to enjoy the park,” he said. “We want people to bring a little plastic bag to pick up the waste.”
Valerie Proctor Davis, president of The Friends of East Lake Park, supports the change.
“I hope all dog walkers will be good citizens and show consideration for everyone by keeping their dogs leashed and cleaning up after them,” Davis said.
South Roebuck resident Michelle Reynolds – who has a small dog, a dachshund named Lulu – is also in favor of the rule change.
“I hardly go anywhere without my dog, and I like to visit East Lake Park, but it limited my number of visits because I couldn’t take my dog,” she said. “I would go somewhere else.”
Reynolds agrees that dog owners should be responsible in their use of the park. “The most important thing in bringing dogs to parks is that people clean up after themselves. I hope that will not an issue.”
The rule change is driven in part by an increase in the number of people, including dog owners, who frequent the park, according to Robinson.
The facility’s “become more attractive to residents, to people who want to get out and exercise with their dogs,” he said.
The rule change is good because it “expands the usage of the park,” Robinson said.
“And you see so many people have a dog as a companion, so they like to recreate with their pets. So often the pets are part of the family, and dogs do need exercise," Robinson said.
Ideally, dog owners and other park users will “coexist” and be respectful of each other, according to Robinson.
“Just be courteous and make the other person feel welcome, and that’s what the park is about,” he said.
The only designated dog park in the city is at George Ward Park, according to Robinson.
Robinson said that, irrespective of park rules, citizens are required by a Jefferson County ordinance to have dogs on leashes at almost any time.
“When you have the dog outside the yard, you should have it on a leash,” he said.
In addition, dogs – even on leashes – should be kept out of certain areas in city parks, including baseball, softball and football fields.