ENCINITAS — Ninety minutes from sunset, dogs ran back and forth along a dirt path at Village Park dog trail as their owners watched on.
Off-leash dogs are allowed at the trail, located east of El Camino Real, between Mountain Vista Road and Encinitas Boulevard, from dawn to dusk. But Conrad Norton, who has lived near the trail for five years, submitted a petition to council members two weeks ago to limit the hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. throughout the year.
Norton said there’s been a noticeable increase in dog walkers on the trail in the past nine months. Hence, noise levels and litter are on the rise, he believes.
“Our quality of life has gone down,” Norton said.
Norton said the trail is intended for exercise. Instead, dog owners often stop and socialize next to homes that border the one-mile spot, particularly at the break of dawn and near sunset.
On a related note, he would also like the city to uproot a Eucalyptus tree on the trail that he said serves as a place for early-morning gatherings.
“I’ve been woken up as early as 5:30 a.m. by people next to my home talking,” he said.
Seventeen neighbors signed the petition, he noted. As well as limiting the hours, Norton believes some days at the trail should be off limits for dogs.
But seven residents took to the podium during the public comments section of last week’s City Council meeting and swiped at the petition.
Julie Fisher has lived by the trail for nearly 25 years. She said the spot was revitalized after the city named it an official off-leash dog park. Before that, partying and overnight camping were common. And people dumped unwanted things in the area.
Now, it’s much cleaner because dog owners pick up after themselves, Fisher said, though she noted there’s some room for improvement.
Laurie Michaels, member of People and Dog Zones, said the local group holds quarterly cleanups to maintain the trail. She also noted the organization advocates for more dog areas in the city.
“By and large, people are very respectful of the trail,” Michaels said.
In response to the petition, those who support dawn to dusk hours drafted a petition of their own and quickly gained 67 signatures, Michaels said.
“Most people work during the day, so it’s very important they have time in the morning or time after their jobs to visit the park,” Michaels said.
She added that the area should remain as is because there are few places for dog owners in the city to frequent.
As for the rest of Encinitas, off-leash dogs are allowed at Viewpoint, Sun Vista and Orpheus parks from 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
Leashed dogs are permitted at most parks and trails in Encinitas, including Cardiff State Beach.
The Encinitas Community Park, off of Santa Fe Avenue and expected to debut next spring, will have a two-acre dog area.
Norton said he hasn’t received word on whether restricting the trail’s hours will be placed on a council agenda.
In the meantime, the Encinitas Parks and Recreation Department will host a community workshop for residents to discuss the trail, which is owned by the city.
Tentatively scheduled for Oct. 1, the department didn’t return a call inquiring about the location and time of the workshop by press time.
More information about the meeting is scheduled to be posted on the city’s website in the next week or so.