Rip Robertson is the Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Tucker. He brings to the job years of experience in Parks and Rec, as well as Public Works. Rip is a former Military Intelligence Analyst for the U.S. Army and is active with the Army Reserve.
I’m really proud of the work our staff has done over the past six months to change old habits when it comes to dogs being off leash in our Tucker parks. While I understand that a handful of dog owners have eschewed leashes and let their dogs run free for years now in Tucker, it is time to put a stop to that.
Sec. 5-5. - Animals at large.It starts with education. I’ve been asked countless times why the City of Tucker is instituting new ordinances to crack down on off leash dogs. I give the same answer every time: “We’re not.” This has been the law of the land in DeKalb County since 2004, 12 years before Tucker incorporated. DeKalb’s code reads:
It shall be unlawful for the owner of an animal to allow it to run at large unattended on or about the streets, rights-of-way, and highways of unincorporated DeKalb County; in any DeKalb County park, except in county parks that are specifically designated as off leash areas; unattended on or about the common property of any apartment complex or condominium community; or on the property of another person without permission of the owner of that property. This section shall not apply to dogs being used for hunting in accordance with state law, rules and regulations.
I will say, enforcement has been lacking on this particular ordinance, but since acquiring the parks as part of the City, we have been trying to educate our citizens and attempting better enforcement. These efforts have included direct contact, web presence and signage. Most recently, we have added part-time staff to help our efforts to make our parks family friendly and include reminders to pet owners about responsible use of public parks.
This spring, we launched our “Lead the Pack” initiative, giving out free leashes to all who signed a pledge stating they would keep their dogs on leash in Tucker parks. To date, we have had nearly 400 people sign that pledge. As they sign, it’s an opportunity for our staff to talk with them and inform them about the leash laws and why they are so important to the safety of all who are enjoying our parks.
Now, I want to be clear that I am a dog owner and I understand the need to let dogs run around from time to time. One of the results of our Parks Master Plan is that we will be installing dog parks in Montreal Park and Lord Park. In fact, we just held a very successful Pop-Up Dog Park event at Montreal Park last month to give residents a taste of what this new park amenity will look like. We had dozens of dogs – large and small – show up to romp, run and make new four-legged friends. If that event is any indication, the new dog parks, once installed, will be well-utilized.
Lastly, on a separate topic, I want to thank the patrons of Tucker Recreation Center for their patience these last few weeks as we’ve done some much-needed renovations at the Rec Center. I hope you’ll stop in to check out our new catering kitchen, as well as our remodeled bathrooms. Gone are the old, broken down fixtures. Same for the child-sized toilets. It may seem like a small thing, but it really is an indication of this city’s commitment to improving all facets of our Parks and Recreation programming.