STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — The Marble Falls Parks and Recreation Commission is trying to stay out of the dog house as it addresses concerns of pet owners regarding small dogs vs. big dogs at Ruff Park.
Ruff Park is an enclosed, half-acre area at Westside Park, located at Second Street and Avenue Q, where owners can let their dogs run free.
During the parks and recreation commission’s Jan. 8 meeting, city staff brought up issues some dog owners have raised in regard to the park, particularly bigger dogs being aggressive toward smaller ones.
After one such reported incident, city staff advised a dog owner to contact the Marble Falls Police Department.
This and similar occurrences prompted city staff to bring the issue before the parks and recreation commission.
The challenge, according to commissioners, is being fair to all dog owners while ensuring equal access to the park.
Commissioners talked about possibly enlarging the dog park to create separate sections for large and small dogs. Marble Falls Parks and Recreation Director Robert Moss noted the location of the dog park makes that difficult because of the floodway.
Johnson Park, 230 Avenue J South, also has an off-leash area, Moss said, so there are other options for dog owners.
Commissioner Charles Watkins encouraged the others to consider a “formal process” for dealing with bad dog behavior.
“What is the process for banning dogs?” he said. “I’d rather have it done then make it up when the time comes.”
Moss said to permanently ban a dog would require the city adopting an ordinance. He is willing to have conversations with pet owners to explain what the department is trying to accomplish: a safe environment for all dogs.
“People are expected to follow the rules,” he said. “If the rules are not adhered to, they can be rejected.”
Most of the commissioners agreed that it made sense to “have an ordinance with teeth.”
City Manager Mike Hodge said city staff will visit with animal control department staff to get more information and feedback.
One way to help remind dog owners of proper park etiquette would be to put signs inside the park. There is already one at the entrance.
Marble Falls City Council member Megan Klaeger, who helped establish Ruff Park in 2015 before she joined the council, said signs were on her list of needs for the park, but the nonprofit created to build and support the park is out of funds. She said she would contact some possible donors and offered to work with Moss on signs and any other concerns regarding the park. She added that she’ll do her own research about these issues at other dog parks.
In the end, the commissioners asked Moss to research the cost of hanging more signs and the language that goes on them; look at future expansion possibilities for the dog park; and do research on dog park operation ordinances in other cities and facilities.
Moss told the commissioners he’ll need several weeks to gather that information.