A woman walks with her dog at the off-leash Village Park dog trail. Instead of limiting the hours, many at a workshop said community enforcement would help homeowners and those who use the trail get along. Photo by Jared Whitlock
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Residents say self-policing is answer to dog trail dispute

ENCINITAS — Many of the residents at a community workshop on Tuesday said that neighbor courtesy will go a long way toward easing tensions at the off-leash Village Park dog trail. 

The neighborhood disagreement flared up in late August. At that time, 15 homeowners signed a petition in response to noise concerns and people not picking up after their dogs on the trail. The petition also called for limiting the hours to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., rather than the current schedule of dawn to dusk.

Resident Conrad Norton gathered those signatures. On Tuesday, he said too many dog owners congregate at a eucalyptus tree near his home.

“When you stand there loitering with all of your friends in just a big group, it’s noisy,” Norton said.

“There’s just too many people using (the trail) right now, and that’s why we need to cut down from 9 to 6,” Norton added.

Bill Carley, who lives near Norton, said he’s in favor of preserving the current hours to accommodate working people. Because not as much sound from the trail reaches his home, Carley said he feels “sorry for those neighbors affected by the noise.”

In any case, he believes “some self-policing” could solve the conflict. He added that dog walkers should remind one another to keep their voices down in the morning.

In response to Norton’s petition, those in favor of a dawn to dusk schedule drew up a petition of their own, gaining 69 signatures.

The Encinitas Parks and Recreation Department called the community workshop, which was attended by about 50 people, to get more input on the proposal to limit the hours.

Resident Ben Lippard said residents who visit the off-leash area shouldn’t dismiss homeowners’ concerns outright. But he added that reducing the hours won’t address noise and other issues head-on.

“I don’t think that gets to the main issues I’ve been hearing in the most constructive way possible,” Lippard said.

Nearby homeowner Anne Mati said that the commotion from people talking is an issue on weekends.

“It would be fine if people were walking their dogs, but they stand in groups,” she said.

Elan Evans said that she wasn’t aware that standing around in certain spots and conversing bothered a few of the homeowners, noting she’ll be more mindful in the future. And she said those who use the trail are now more likely to clean up after their dogs after hearing about homeowners’ objections.

“I’m proud of us out there (on the trail),” she said. “I think we do a good job.”

Occasionally, the Encinitas Sheriff’s Department has been called to intervene with arguments at the off-leash dog area. Over the past five years, the department has responded to five service calls.

At the end of the meeting, residents floated the idea of fundraising to pay for tree plantings around the trail as a sound-insulating measure.

On a related note, to avoid interference with a transmission easement, SDG&E will remove five trees from the off-leash area soon. The eucalyptus tree near Norton’s home is among those that will be taken out. SDGE will replace the trees, but put the new ones at different locations on the trail.

The trail, located east of El Camino Real, between Mountain Vista Road and Encinitas Boulevard, became an official off-leash dog trail in 2003 after the city acquired the property. Since then, there’s been less overnight camping and litter at the location, several residents at the meeting said.

Parks and Recreation Director Lisa Rudloff said that the consensus seems to be that the trail’s hours should remain the same, adding that residents should make a commitment to work with each other.