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South Fayette residents talk about next steps for leash-free dog zone

| Friday, March 3, 2017, 11:10 p.m.
A man walks with a dog along the hillside at Fairview Park in South Fayette as the sun begins to set Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. South Fayette Township officials discontinued an off-leash area at the park due to a dog-on-dog attack in the fall and other issues.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
A man walks with a dog along the hillside at Fairview Park in South Fayette as the sun begins to set Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. South Fayette Township officials discontinued an off-leash area at the park due to a dog-on-dog attack in the fall and other issues.

Concerned citizens and dog owners in South Fayette say they want to find a way to reinstate a dog-friendly off-leash area of Fairview Park.

“Most of us are concerned,” resident Vince Senatore said at a meeting last month in Bridgeville to discuss a plan following the discontinuing of the Fairview Park dog park in November. “We thought there were problems when there was an off-leash park. We felt people were taking advantage of the rules. I think that we need to put together a recommendation that objectively addresses real issues in the township. I'm sure we can do that.”

Members of the Dog Run-Free Zone Committee discussed benefits of clearer signage to where the dog park begins and ends, larger signs, financing, proper patrolling and the potential of issuing lanyards to registered dogs and their owners.

“How do you take something that has been working so well for all these years and then end it,” said Gary Massetti, who co-owns LaBella Bean. “The amount of signage and police patrol that we have now, if that had been there from the beginning, we probably would have never been in this position.

“From a community point of view, I have met a lot of people on that trail. It has been a great asset to the community.”

The dog run-free zone at Fairview Park was shut down late last year stemming from a dog attack which resulted in $7,000 worth of medical bills for the injured dog, township leaders have said.

Since the area opened in 2004, fewer than five attacks or incidents were reported, said Deb Whitewood, a member of the township's parks and recreation board. There have been some complaints about dogs being able to run freely close to the tennis courts, basketball courts and baseball fields.

“If we would have had one person ticketed per month for the last six years, we wouldn't be here,” Whitewood said. “There's room for all of us in that park. But we can't stop every dog from encountering another dog.”

Examples of other dog parks in Colorado, Texas, New York and Missouri were presented, as well as local examples in South Park, North Park, Sewickley Heights, Lawrenceville and Carnegie.

The group agreed that a fully fenced-in dog park would be detrimental to the area because “the geography almost creates natural barriers with the hillside,” Massetti said.

Another concern discussed was complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“In that area of the park, the access points that people want to use are in the middle of the playground, ballfields, tennis courts and basketball courts,” Whitewood said. “That's where people want to come in at. They want to park right there at the Clifford parking lot and head on up the hill. Or, they're letting their dogs out right there at the ballfield. That needs to be regulated.”

Matthew Peaslee is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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