For more than 30 years, neighbors near Williams Park have taken advantage of great amenities, but some neighbors say the dogs have taken over.
Last year, the Boise Parks and Recreation Department heard from area residents who wanted off-leash hours in the park. The result was a year-long pilot program where dogs could run free in certain spots. Half of Williams Park has been opened up for off-leash dogs in the morning and evening.
"You have from sunrise to 10, and from 4 p.m. to sunset that you can off-leash in an area," said Toby Norton of Boise Parks and Rec.
Some neighbors say it's been a blast. "I've been in this neighborhood for 30 years,” said Cluadia Terrell. “And I'm meeting neighbors because of our love of dogs and letting them play together."
Others are less enthused.
"The park was originally built to be a neighborhood park,” said Pete Reed, who lives adjacent to Williams Park. “It's no longer a neighborhood park. It's come and go and the kids that used to play here just don't come out."
A group of neighbors living adjacent to the park opposed the off-leash pilot from the beginning, and feel the city ignored them.
"We really felt like we were dismissed,” said neighbor Cherrie Rasmussen. “That our concerns were not listened to and [the Parks Department] kept saying 'just give it a try, have a trial for one year.'"
Four acres of the park are designated as a dog off-leash area for certain hours of the day. However, once you cross a sidewalk in the middle of the park, your dog has to be on a leash. The problem is, there's a playground just 50 yards away from the barrier, that leads to a confusing issue – some parents don’t think the park is safe for their kids.
When asked if she would leave her two children unattended in the park, Caroln Corolla said, "No, not anymore."
Concerned neighbors say the sidewalk doesn't stop dogs, that the dogs could threaten children, and that off-leash dogs have effectively driven kids away.
"Everybody from all around comes and lets their dogs run so the kids can't play," said Pegg Mason. She has been retired for years and says the number of kids running in the open field is down.
"When little kids come play and laugh and have good times, it's magical,” said Mason’s neighbor, Elaine Finch. “The only thing you hear now are dogs barking."
Video shot by a neighbor allegedly shows dogs running off-leash, outside the designated off-leash hours, and on multiple occasions. Not following the rules is a major complaint for dissenting neighbors, but the City says it's not their problem.
"It's up to the dog owners to enforce that themselves,” said the Parks’ Norton. “We have seen that it is being observed for the most part."
While admitting there were problem dog owners, Terrell does not think the complaint holds water.
"I'm sorry there are people who break the rules, but i don't think we who follow the rules should be penalized for that," she said.
Boise only has two officers enforcing park rules, meaning neighbors usually police themselves.
The city has sought comment from neighbors through mailers and an online survey. Thus far, the results have been one-sided.
"There has been more in support of maintaining the program than there has been against it,” said Norton. “It's roughly 70/30."
To date, the city has not had reports of anyone attacked by a dog at Williams Park.
The Parks Commission is meeting July 17 to determine what the next step will be. There, they will consider the feedback neighbors have provided and assess their own findings. The meeting is open to the public.