Trial period for cycling, off-leash dog areas in Oakmont’s Dark Hollow Woods proposed |
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Michael DiVittorio

Dark Hollow Woods in Oakmont may be split in two as part of a compromise to make it more dog- and bicycle-friendly.

Borough recreation board member Ryan Erlich proposed council grant a six-month trial period from May 1 to Oct. 31 to test off-leash times and cycling in the woods near Crystal Drive.

The current policy prohibits bikes in the park and dogs from roaming free.

“Our intention is (to) come up with something that accommodates all those residents that want off-leash, but also accommodates those people who don’t want to run into off-leash dogs,” Erlich said.

The park would be split in two for dog owners with off-leash times from dawn till 1 p.m. and on-leash from 1 p.m. to dusk in its southwest section, and the opposite times in the northeast section.

Bikes would be permitted throughout the park after 3 p.m. weekdays and all day on weekends and holidays.

The original proposal offered in December stated dogs would be allowed off-leash from sunrise to 11 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to dusk daily throughout the park. The bike proposal remained the same.

Erlich said he received a lot of feedback on the proposal at a Jan. 16 recreation board meeting, and believes the updated proposal is a solid compromise.

“We had probably 50 people show up, if not more,” he said. “We got some really good public comment. I think we got to a better place because of it.”

Most of the responses at the board meeting were positive. Some were concerned about the time schedule for the whole park in the original proposal.

“Everyone’s got their own schedule, so, if you set specific times, you’re going to inconvenience someone on any side of the fence,” Erlich said about the feedback. “By splitting the park into two, you can come any time of the day whether you want to do on-leash or off-leash and there’s a spot for you.”

An ordinance that would have permitted dogs off-leash in Dark Hollow Park was presented to council in 2014. It passed via 4-3 vote June 9, 2014, according to borough meeting minutes.

Council then voted in Nov. 11, 2014 to permit only leashed dogs in the park.

There are signs in Dark Hollow to remind dog owners to keep them on a leash and to clean up after them.

Council President William Benusa said he supports the new proposals, but has some safety concerns when it comes to cycling along the trails in the northern side of the park by the borough’s Fairways neighborhood. There is at least a 4-foot drop in that area.

“I have really big concerns over having bicycle people ride on that small piece of property,” he said. “You can walk your bike over there no problem. A small kid should not be on a bicycle trying to navigate that.”

Erlich said a walkthrough is planned for March 15 with borough park maintenance director Bob Springer to examine Dark Hollow safety and maintenance issues. Council members suggested having Jim Yurek, Oakmont’s bike patrol officer, assist in those efforts.

Erlich said he would be open to that idea, and plans to discuss the proposal further at the April 17 recreation board meeting. There is no timetable for council to act on the proposal.

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