Brookhaven Park on Peachtree Road has a reputation as an off-leash dog park, despite a leash law. But some city residents say dogs running loose endanger visitors and leave messes behind.
“No one can enjoy the park,” said Erin Mosher, a member of the Brookhaven Park Conservancy, who lives on Kendrick Road. “It’s just dangerous … and there are literally large piles of poop everywhere.”
Parks and Recreation Director Brian Borden said the city plans to put up more signage in the park to let dog owners know their pets should be on a leash. The city is also installing more stations with bags dog owners can use to pick up after their pets at Brookhaven Park and the city’s other parks.
“Most dog owners do pick up after their dogs, but there are a few who are causing problems,” Borden said. Although a few residents are complaining to the city, Borden said there is no serious danger created by the droppings.
“It comes back to responsible pet owners cleaning up after their dogs, because we want our parks to be enjoyable to everyone,” he said.
Mosher disagrees, saying she won’t allow her small children to play at the park because she fears they might catch a disease.
“At what point do people take more precedent over pets?” she asked.
Thad Ellet, also a Brookhaven Park Conservancy member, has regularly played ultimate Frisbee at the park with friends since 2007. He said he’s noticed an increase in “unattended dog poo” in the last year.
“The solution simply boils down to responsibility and accountability,” he said. “Unwelcomed dog interaction remains an issue for park users and would-be users such as pleasure walkers and young children.”
Dog owners are generally good about segregating their dogs away from sports users, but there have been exceptions and athletic field users often must clean up the dog droppings, Ellet said.
The city’s assistant parks director did have to conduct a walk-through of Brookhaven Park with a representative from the DeKalb County Board of Health in October prior to the popular Atlanta Chili Festival. Apparently, someone complained to the health department, Borden said.
“We work very hard to keep the park clean and they talked to us, but they understand we’re doing everything we can,” Borden said. “No one from any other festival at the park has complained before and there has never been an incident where a festival was going to be shut down.”
Besides feces, the city’s lack of enforcement of the dog leash law is also problematic, Mosher said.
“It’s a free-for-all for dogs,” she said. “The signs say dogs must be on a leash. But the dog people take over. It is not supposed to be an off-leash dog park.”
Councilmember Bates Mattison, whose district includes Brookhaven Park, said he regularly visits the park with his children and his dog.
“It’s always been an off-leash dog park,” he said, saying there is no enforcement of the leash rule.
“It’s not good policy to ignore the problem,” he said. “But I haven’t seen anything where safety is an issue.”
The best way to address problems is for the city to come up with a master plan for Brookhaven Park and implement it, Mattison said.
A Brookhaven Park master plan was in the works two years ago, but confusion at the time over ownership of the property between DeKalb County and the city resulted in that plan being pulled.
In December 2016, the city paid the county $100 an acre for approximately 12 acres of the park, commonly referred to as the back portion of the park.
The front portion of the park is where the DeKalb Services Center is located.
Because the property is divided into two parcels, determining ownership has been a long and difficult process.
Mattison said the city continues to work with the county’s legal department to resolve ownership.
In anticipation of finally owning the park, the city last year allocated money for a fence to be used to segregate acreage in the park for dogs to run loose, Mattison said.
Mattison said he is planning to meet with Brookhaven Park Conservancy members this month to finalize a master plan to bring to the City Council in the near future for approval.
“We need to find a compromise,” he said.