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High bacteria levels lead to dog park’s closing

The City of Austin Parks Department plans to close a popular dog park for six to eight months because of high E. coli bacteria levels in the creek.

Officials blame the bacteria — found during regular water sampling since 2007 — on dog waste at the Bull Creek District Park, one of 12 off-leash parks in Austin.

In March 2008, the city put up signs at the park about the environmental dangers of dog waste, but problems persisted, parks Director Sara Hensley said. The department plans to require leashes at the park beginning Sept. 8. In October, plans call for the dog area to be closed entirely to plant more vegetation to helps keep pollutants from draining into the creek. City officials haven’t determined yet whether leashes would be required when the park reopens in the spring.

Heavy use of the park has worn down existing vegetation there, city officials say, and the drought has led to low, slow-moving waters in the creek where bacteria can thrive, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Austin’s leash ordinance requires dogs to be on a leash no longer than six feet on public land. The maximum fine for violating that rule is $500.

The parks department is trying to find other spaces that could be turned into off-leash parks, Hensley said.

Debra Bailey, a task force member who formed a volunteer group last year to regularly clean up dog waste at the park, said sewage spills and other trash left in the creek could also be to blame for high bacteria levels. The city should look at other options before closing the dog park or requiring leashes, such as better enforcement and signs related to picking up dog waste, she said.

“They are blaming the dogs and not addressing other issues,” she said.


Comment from Nina
Time August 10, 2009 at 10:51 am

I’m interested to see what kind of impact the park closing will have on the community behavior. I hope the media in Austin follows up on this story. It seems more and more this is happening around the country and I just don’t understand why people can’t grasp the concept of picking up after their pet? It shouldn’t matter whether you’re walking down the street or at the park. Clean It Up! (http://www.rascodog.com/stories/clean-it-up/)

Comment from Sarah
Time August 10, 2009 at 5:09 pm

I agree, people need to pick up after their dogs! If its a place where other people walk and hang out (which is pretty much any public place) then it needs to be picked up. That’s really unfortunate that the park had to close.