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Golfers, dog owners to compromise on use of Mount Hood Park

Posted by Marcia Dick  August 22, 2012 01:27 PM

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After passing a controversial measure banning dogs at Mount Hood Park and Golf Course, the Melrose Parks Commission next month will consider a compromise that will readmit pooches to the massive open green space.

The ban, passed by the five-member commission Aug. 13, was in response to complaints from the company that runs the golf course, Mass Golf Managment LLC., said Michael Interbartolo, chairman of the commission, in a phone interview.

Interbartolo said the off-leash dog problem was "brought to our attention a couple of months ago," and that it's an issue of safety, he said.

"This is no different than what they do on public beaches during the summer," Interbartolo said. Dogs are banned from public beaches because there are safety and health issues."

Michael Farrell, who has managed the course for a decade, said golfers or course staffers encounter off-leash dogs about once a week, and said no one in the recent past has been injured or bit during an encounter.

But Farrell said the ban was in response to the cumulative effect of dogs on the property.

"It was a combination of issues, dog waste being put in spots where it shouldn't have been. Golfers being, you know, being harassed by dogs. That kind of stuff," Farrell said.

Ward 6 Alderman Peter Mortimer said that for decades, golfers and dog-owners have coexisted at the mixed-use location, albeit with occasional, minor scuffles, but the conflicts weren't serious, and the two groups found ways to respect each other.

"When this order first passed my phone was ringing off the hook," Mortimer said. "One lady said she'd been walking her dog for 40 years without a problem. It's a big place."

So the alderman -- also a dog-owner who enjoys the occasional romp in the Mount Hood Park -- submitted a resolution last Monday to rescind the ban, or at least call for the commission not to enforce it, although the aldermen have no legislative power over the commission.

At the same time, Mayor Robert Dolan, Parks Commissioner John McLaughlin, the city's police chief and animal control officer, heads of a park friends group and a dog-owners society, and Mortimer hashed out a compromise plan that delineates where dogs are allowed, where they are forbidden, and where golfers and the pet-owners must coexist at Mount Hood.

"I think the park commission acted a little precipitously, you know, as one person said, using a sledge hammer to kill an ant," said Mortimer.

In a letter to the park commissioners and the Board of Aldermen spelling out the compromise, the city officials call for a little respect and common sense.

"This park and golf course covers over 200 acres. There is enough room for everyone, if it is used responsibly," the letter said. "The spirit of this compromise is coexistence with courtesy, reasonableness, and tolerance by all users of the facility."

The plan outlaws dogs from golf course fairways, greens, and tees, and calls for owners to clean up after their pets and keep them on-leash. At designated areas -- including access roads that cross fairways -- golfers and dog-walkers should mind one another.

Additionally, if golf course staff find a dog owner walking sans leash, the staffers are supposed to distribute a palm-sized placard proclaiming the rules.

"If they do not comply in a reasonable manner, the ranger will call the Melrose Police Department," according to the compromise.

Matt Byrne can be reached at mbyrne.globe@gmail.com.

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