published Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Chattanooga: No pets allowed

Bikers, walkers split about pets on walkway


by Cliff Hightower
Audio clip

Larry Zehnder

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Dan Henry Jim Fisher walks along the Tennessee Riverwalk on Tuesday. Mr. Fisher typically uses the path three times a week.

Josh Hildebrandt loaded his bike onto his car Wednesday on the Riverwalk just 20 feet away from a sign posted saying "No Pets."

But Mr. Hildebrandt, a Red Bank resident who bikes the Riverwalk three to four times a week, said he doesn't see why pets shouldn't be allowed. Mr. Hildebrandt, whose family owns three dogs, said he would bring the pets to the park if he could.

Nearly half the people who responded to an unscientific survey by University of Tennessee at Chattanooga students agree.

UTC students in a Health and Human Services class surveyed people using the Riverwalk between October and March. Among the questions they asked was whether pets should be allowed in the Riverpark.

Among 263 survey respondents, 47 percent said they supported pets being allowed in the Riverpark, 39 percent opposed them and 10 percent offered no opinion.

Bicyclists and walkers were split almost 50-50 over allowing pets, while runners overwhelmingly favored them.

"I would have assumed bicyclists would prefer not to have pets on the trail and walkers would prefer them," Stefanie deOlloqui, adjunct professor in UTC's College of Health and Human Performance, said.

The study will continue to track Riverpark data until the end of the spring semester in 2010.

Chattanooga and Hamilton County jointly maintain the Riverwalk, with the county responsible for the portion from Chickamauga Dam to the Veterans Bridge, and the city taking over from the bridge to Renaissance Park.

City Parks and Recreation Administrator Larry Zehnder said the pet ban applies to the whole park and neither government is likely to change it anytime soon.

"It's due to the congestion and variety of users," he said.

Preventing contamination from pet waste is a key issue, he said. Many festivals take place at Ross's Landing and on the North Shore. And waste could enter the Tennessee River, he said.

County Parks and Recreation Director Ron Priddy said a committee of city and county representatives decides what's allowed on the Riverwalk.

He said the group would consider data from the survey and might discuss options such as designated areas for pets.

"That is a possibility," he said. "That doesn't mean it will happen."

Finishing her bike ride Wednesday, Jeannie Potter, of Ooltewah, said she would not want dogs on the walkway. She foresees having to avoid leashed dogs and their messes.

"It's well groomed and we're lucky to have a city that takes care of a place like this," Mrs. Potter said.

BY THE NUMBERS

A survey of 263 people by University of Tennessee at Chattanooga students found the majority supported pets in parks. The survey results were:

* 47 percent: In favor

* 39 percent: Opposed

* 10 percent: No opinion

Source: Riverpark Usage Data Project

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KWVeteran said...

Although a majority of pet owners clean up after their dogs (at least when someone is watching)in a responsible manner, casual observation continues to disclose that MANY pet owners continue to allow their pets to pollute the place they inhabit. Because of that "MANY pet owners", the signs have to be established in public areas.

June 18, 2009 at 7:55 a.m.
ldhan said...

I am tired of letting the irresponsible few ruin it all for everyone else and all that there-is-nothing-we-can-do attitude. While I can appreciate the fact that it is a difficult problem to confront, what I don't understand is the evident lacking of will from all sides to even try coming up with solutions to balance the diverse interests within our community. As much as we pride ourselves with our beautiful riverwalk, it is certainly not the only one in the country. Many other communities facing similar if not greater challenges than ours ultimately manage to be pet friendly, why can't we?

Animal waste if always the top concern, conveniently located waste stations and bag dispensers need to be setup for sure. Irresponsible pet owners are major source of concern as well, we as a community need to step up to educate ourselves and each other to become better pet owners. I am sure funding is of a concern too. How about creating a special permit/leash program for people who do not mind paying to take advantage of it. It is a privilege and ought to be treated as such. If it is inherently not safe for bikers and pets to share the riverwalk, how about designate certain days of the week or different parts of day for each group? It certainly should not become the reason one group's interest is completely dominated by the other. Designating time slots for pet owners can also allow park rangers to monitor those slots more in order to curb bad behaviors and discourage irresponsible pet owners.

I am sure there are many other ideas we can try too to make it happen. So Mr. Priddy, I know it is hard, but I also know it is possible. We need you and the people who make these decisions to take on the initiative and ultimately make it happen. Also, I for one would like to thank the UTC professors/students who took part in this study, you are doing your part to make the community we all share a better one.

June 18, 2009 at 9:36 a.m.
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