More than six years after the area’s only off-leash dog park closed, Camas city officials are exploring the possibility of creating one in partnership with a local nonprofit group.
“This conversation is not new to Camas,” Parks and Recreation Director Trang Lam told parks and recreation commission members in August. “It’s been a long journey of not building a dog park here in Camas, but I’m hoping we’re going to approach this slightly differently, and that, hopefully, we can bring this to fruition this time.”
Lam reached out to DOGPAW President Marty Rutkovitz and discussed the possibility of his group joining with the city of Camas to help operate an off-leash park within city limits.
“We’re basically property managers,” Rutkovitz told the parks commission at a meeting in August. “We manage three parks for Clark County and one park owned by the city of Vancouver … and all of the work is done through unpaid volunteers.”
DOGPAW asks park users to become members for a suggested donation of $25 a year, but Rutkovitz said some people donate more while others donate less. Some users, he said, don’t donate at all.
“Truthfully, at any of our four parks on any given day, out of the hundreds of dog owners that come, only about 25 percent are members,” Rutkovitz said.
The key to building a thriving Camas dog park, he said, would be having buy-in from local users — many of whom, he suspects, are currently using DOGPAW’s 8-acre Dakota Memorial Dog Park at 1515 N.E. 164th Ave. in Vancouver.
Ellen Burton, a member of the Camas Parks and Recreation Commission, said the issue of building an off-leash dog park came up in surveys during the city’s outreach for its updated Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Plan in 2022.
“One of the themes of interest to our community was recreation with our dogs,” Burton said. “It’s always been very important to our community members.”
The commission’s talk with Rutkovitz, Burton said, was a “first step of opening the conversation about a potential dog park.”
Lam said the city still has the same constraints it had in the past, when other city and Port of Camas-Washougal officials tried to build a dog park. A parking lot is one of the biggest needs.
“Fencing is going to be important,” Lam said. “And other amenities: you want to give humans and pets water, have shade, a seating area, trash for pet waste, bathrooms … and then we’ve got maintenance with all of this. So it’s not just fencing an area and calling it good. There’s more to this than people think.”
Lam said she plans to move forward with the issue by gauging the community’s interest in building and maintaining an off-leash dog park.
Rutkovitz said he is taking the idea of a possible DOGPAW/Camas partnership to his board.
“I don’t want to get their hopes up,” Rutkovitz said. “But I do hope it goes through. We’d love to work with the city of Camas … and we believe off-leash parks are so healthy for getting dogs outside and getting that energy out. It’s healthy for our fur babies and for their moms and dads.”