People need a safe haven, and many feel that it’s the Baxter Woods community.

Portland has proposed to have dogs on-leash only there. This was based on a dozen complaints over several years, and the belief that dogs negatively affect the woods.

A few of us have been talking to park users in person – owners of off-leash dogs, but also non-dog owners, runners, bicyclists, teachers, families with children, disabled people and some who’ve moved to the neighborhood to be near Baxter Woods. More than 400 people have commented, and about 98 percent enjoy the free-running dogs.

In reality, few cause problems and usually it’s safe, made so by the dog-walking community, who care, meet neighbors, pick up trash and note suspicious activity. Many train their dogs, who learn to behave better with other dogs and people. Most know it is not a dog park, but off-leash use has been allowed for years, and it is never full of dogs.

A recent week was bookended with life’s events, small and large. One dog owner was giving his ailing, older dog his final walk, a sad ceremony of sorts, which the owner said “warmed his heart.” Days later, a wedding ceremony was held (dogs welcome).

It’s a social hub for those who appreciate relief from isolation, especially elderly, single or disabled people who can’t have pets. Some without a pet come specifically to see dogs, and people who want trouble will avoid the place.

Baxter Woods is a special urban forest partly because of the dogs and responsible owners. We hope to keep it a safe haven.

Dawn Leland


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