No city laws ban pets at park

June 04, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

City of Hagerstown park regulations posted at city parks, including the prohibition of dogs there, apparently are not a city law and can't be enforced by Hagerstown City Police, city officials said Tuesday.

"It is a park rule but it is not a crime," Police Chief Arthur Smith said.

Hagerstown Councilman Kristin Aleshire said during last week's council meeting that he has violated City Park rules by walking his two dogs on the edge of the park property, a practice that sparked a complaint to police.

When Aleshire, who lives in a neighborhood behind City Park, walks his dogs behind one part of the park, he has to choose between walking on the road, which doesn't seem safe, or on a path on park property and he chooses the latter, he said.


"You might as well get out your ticket book ... I am not going to walk on the roadway," Aleshire said during last week's meeting. He received no ticket or citation.

Aleshire said he always has assumed that since the park rules are posted they are also city laws.

But while at the Western Maryland Blues Fest at City Park on Sunday, Aleshire noticed people on the property with dogs and he asked police officers why the park rules were not being enforced, he said. He said he was told there are no city laws against pets in the park.

Aleshire researched the issue and mentioned the incident during Tuesday's work session.

After the meeting John Budesky, director of administrative services, said the city tells workers at the parks to encourage people to follow the posted rules. However, the city does not ask the police to enforce the rules because it is unclear if there is any city law prohibiting the animals at the parks, he said.

City staff will make suggestions to the Hagerstown City Council in the next few weeks on the matter, he said.

Before the meeting, Recreation Superintendent Doug Stull said he thought the council previously had approved a list of 13 regulations, with violators being guilty of a misdemeanor and liable for a fine of more than $500 or imprisonment or both.

But Budesky said he has been unable to find anything in council minutes indicating the regulations ever were adopted.

The closest thing he found was an ordinance prohibiting drinking alcohol at the park and limiting park hours, he said.

The confusion may have resulted from changes with the Hagerstown Parks Board, Mayor William M. Breichner said.

Before 1983, the Hagerstown Parks Board had the authority to prohibit activity in the parks and the police enforced board-imposed rules there, Breichner said. In 1983 some of the park's powers were removed when the board became an advisory body, he said.

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