Among the usual commotion of dogs running, playing, sniffing, and “doing their business” with their owners nearby at Lucky Dog Park in Brush Prairie on May 8, several volunteers and members of the park’s chief operators were busy either picking up the results of said business, clearing brush along fencing, or using tools for park maintenance.
Others manned tables with information about DOGPAW, which founded and runs the parks, as they signed parkgoers up to become members and provided information about what impact the parks have on Clark County as a whole.
The event was one of DOGPAW’s monthly beautification events, which apart from picking up poop, also serves to get parkgoers acquainted with who maintains the free resource for those looking to let their dogs run free.
DOGPAW operates four off-leash parks across Clark County, with Lucky in Brush Prairie and Kane Dog Park in Hockinson located in North County. All of the parks are named in honor of local police K9s.
In 2021 the group approved a new contract with Clark County to help maintain the parks.
Running through 2025, the contract states the county will take on some of the responsibilities the organization used to handle itself, including mowing and maintenance of the paths, DOGPAW President Sally Jenkins said.
DOGPAW pays for dog waste disposal, which includes the bags found around the parks for patrons to use, and also regulates behavior at the parks by establishing rules and posting them on-site.
DOGPAW saw some challenges in maintaining its operations in recent years. Conversations with the county presented the scenario where DOGPAW would fold, and discussions centered around whether or not the fixtures of the community could be maintained by public resources, Jenkins said.
“They kind of said that they just do not have the means to do it without us. These parks are busy all year round,” Jenkins said, adding the parks still saw activity when COVID-19 restrictions shuttered most other places for county residents to go.
She mentioned DOGPAW had a contract that needed a renewal for another potential park to the west of the Humane Society for Southwest Washington, something that fit in with the group’s push to expand its offerings in the county.
“We want to be a good resource for dog owners that want to come out and let their dogs run,” Jenkins said.
Also present on Saturday was Clark County Public Works Clean Water Outreach Specialist Eric Lambert, who promoted Canines for Clean Water, an effort by public works to educate and support proper disposal of dog waste.
Lambert said a number of streams in Clark County don’t meet standards for fecal coliform bacteria. He said scientists working for the county determined through DNA testing that dog waste was constantly found across the Salmon Creek watershed.
Lambert referenced the Canines for Clean Water pledge, which he said was closing in on 4,000 signatures.
“It’s important for us to be able to do this type of outreach and help people understand the importance of picking up (dog waste) not just for common courtesy and respect, but also for stream health. It’s important to pick up everywhere — when you’re on your walk, (or) when you’re at home,” Lambert said, explaining waste mixes with water like rainwater and can make its way to storm drains, which heads untreated to local streams.
“You might not be living next to a stream, but a yard that’s filled with dog waste during the rainy season … it could end up in your local stream, in a ditch, which ends up polluting larger bodies of water,” Lambert said.
DOGPAW Park Operations Director Marty Rutkovitz had his dogs Priscilla, a Maltese, and Lillibean, a Norfolk Terrier-Dachshund mix show up for part of the day Saturday. He said other than picking up poop, the work that day involved cleaning out and organizing the maintenance shed, searching for and filling holes, and digging a trench line to aid with water runoff.
Rutkovitz and his wife, Paula, moved to Clark County from St. Louis in the Fall of 2019, though he didn’t stumble upon Lucky Dog Park until earlier this year. After meeting DOGPAW board members during a similar park cleanup at Ike Dog Park in Minnehaha, he briefly became park manager for Kane Dog Park in Hockinson before assuming his current role.
Prior to retiring, Rutkovitz had a work background in construction and facilities. He joked about announcing his new position on social media, noting it was a “get to take your dog to work job.”
“I love it — getting outdoors, exercising, but the main thing is us meeting new people, making friends, and supporting a nonprofit,” Rutkovitz said.