Last Update: 1/21/2013 4:17:00 PM
Spring Township parks dog ban draws howls of protest from some residents
Township official says enforcement overdue
Jen Lesher stood at the entrance to Shiloh Hills Park in disbelief.
"No pets permitted except service animals," reads a new sign listing 10 rules and regulations.
Lesher and her 6-year-old Siberian husky, Jack, have been walking at the park near Shiloh Hills Elementary almost every weekend for two years. But last Sunday, they had to turn around and go home.
"I was just in shock," Lesher said.
Grabbing a marker and yellow poster board, the Spring Township woman decided to make her own sign and place it below the posted rules.
"Attention Dog Owners: Please contact me immediately," she wrote, along with her email address.
Lesher said that in less than a week at least 10 people have emailed her to express the same sentiment: "We are so upset."
Spring Township resident Lisa Stettler, 52, has two border collies she walks at the park.
"What a disappointment to see that sign telling us we are no longer welcome," she said.
But according to Spring Township Parks Manager Judy Houck, an ordinance written in the 1970s states that dogs aren't allowed at any township park. She acknowledged that most people didn't realize until the sign was installed Jan. 10 that they couldn't bring dogs to Shiloh Hills.
"It was put up because the police department can't enforce the rules if they're not posted," Houck explained.
Houck said identical signs were posted recently in each of Spring Township's 14 parks - an action that was overdue.
People bring their dogs to the parks and often don't clean up after them, Houck said. She said the township could be liable if a dog bit or otherwise harmed someone.
Gary Tompkins, 62, of Spring Township walks or runs with his papillon, Molly, almost every day. He said it's insane to close Shiloh Hills to dog walkers.
"In the two years I've been going there, it's unusual to see someone without their dog," he said.
Sherry Huey of Spring Township walked her pit-bull mix, Dasher, at the park every day until the new sign went up. She and Stettler, who often walked together, made a list of 50 dogs they would regularly see at the park.
Shiloh Hills will become a ghost park without the dog walkers, said Huey, 35.
The township opened the park with a plan to eventually put in a dog park, teen area with an in-line skating rink, a skate park, basketball and volleyball courts, and baseball and soccer fields.
"Our tax dollars are going into that park, and we were kind of misled that the park would be pet-friendly," Huey said.
Houck said plans for the dog park were never abandoned. A lack of money has slowed its progress, she said, but the dog park is expected to be opened within five years.
Houck said she's received one email and two phone calls from township residents concerned about the dog restriction posted at Shiloh Hills. No one has called about the signs posted at the other parks.
Contact Beth Anne Heesen: 610-371-5084 or firstname.lastname@example.org.