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Wachs Rejects Plan for Park to Be Permanent Dog Haven

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Los Angeles city councilman this week rejected a proposal to make permanent Laurel Canyon Park’s unique status as a haven where dogs can run free.

Under a plan offered by Councilman Joel Wachs, the grant of leash-free privileges at Laurel Canyon Park would need to be renewed each year by the City Council.

Wachs was sitting as the lone member present of the Arts, Health and Humanities Committee. His plan, which next goes to the full City Council, was not good news for dog owners, who want the city to take over more of the responsibility and cost of operating the four-acre park.

“We want more meat on our plate for our work,” said Jane Purse, founder of ParkWatch, a private group that has worked with recreation officials to make Laurel Canyon Park the city’s first--and to date only--park in which dogs can run free of leashes.

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Purse’s group has contributed time and money to make Laurel Canyon Park successful as a dog park, expecting that as a reward the city would make the leash-free privilege permanent.

ParkWatch has extensively educated dog owners on their legal duties to clean up their animals’ feces, pays $65 per day to have a ranger patrol the park on weekends and holidays when patronage is highest, and conducts cleanup campaigns.

The park has operated as a leash-free zone on a pilot basis since August, 1988, with dogs permitted to run free from 7 to 10 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to sundown each day.

The initial exemption from the city’s leash law for park users was for six months. Since then, the exemption has been extended every six months.

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“Some people feel that the reason you are doing such a good job is that you have something to gain,” Wachs told Purse. “You have an incentive. I want to make sure you keep doing your share.”

Wachs also won an important endorsement for his plan from Diana Brueggemann, an aide to Councilman Michael Woo. Woo represents the area, and his views are likely to be influential when the plan comes to a vote by the full council.


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