Plan to try dog-walking in Mt. Lebanon's Williamsburg Park defeated

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A pilot program that would have allowed dogs in Mt. Lebanon's Williamsburg Park was defeated in a Tuesday vote by township commissioners.

The measure was rejected by a 2-2 vote. In favor were David Brumfield -- who represents the 4th Ward where the park is located -- and Kelly Fraasch.

Kristen Linfante and John Bendel voted against. Matt Kluck did not attend.

Mr. Brumfield worked on developing the pilot program, which would have lasted for 90 days. It called for pet owners to be able to walk dogs in the park before 9 a.m. and after dark.

His original proposal called for a registration process for dogs, but he shifted the emphasis to reflect a time element. The suggestion for the change came from Ms. Fraasch.

"My biggest concern was having children and dogs in the park at the same time," she said.

Some residents of Sunset Hills, the Mt. Lebanon neighborhood where Williamsburg Park is located, expressed a similar point of view.

"Children and dogs, I find, are just not a safe mix," Ashley Loboda, a pediatrician and mother of three, told commissioners. She expressed concern about sanitary conditions in the park with an influx of pets.

"There's just not quite enough space to be walking your dog in the same area where your children are playing," she said.

A petition against the program, containing about 80 signatures, was submitted to the commission.

On the other hand, 131 residents signed a petition in support, including Dina Torek of Bridgewater Drive.

"The park is not reserved for children," she told commissioners. "It's for all of us."

She mentioned observations she had made while walking outside of the municipal building during Tuesday's meeting.

"There are dogs on Washington Road," Ms. Torek said. "There are kids on Washington Road. Everyone is getting along just fine."

Mt. Lebanon permits dogs in three parks: Bird, Robb Hollow and Twin Hills. Residents near Williamsburg approached officials about changing the situation, and twice the parks advisory board recommended action to allow dogs there.

In the meantime, the issue has been divisive for Sunset Hills, and Ms. Linfante expressed concern about similar conflicts arising in other parts of the township.

Identifying herself as a dog owner, she noted some people's attitudes toward the pets.

"Everyone is going to have their threshold of tolerance for a dog," she said. "Many people are not comfortable with dogs."

She also mentioned concerns about people not cleaning up after their pets, calling it a matter of "a few dog owners ruining it for the rest. That has certainly influenced my decision."

Mr. Brumfield received compliments for his work on the pilot program from several residents who supported it.

"I do believe that this could have been done without any incidents occurring," he said. "I just hope everyone can move on."

neigh_south

Harry Funk, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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