This Capitol Hill off-leash dog park is easy to miss. When we pulled up to the corner of Boren Ave and Pike we saw the namesake pillars but not much else. Luckily, the light stopped us at the corner because we were about to drive on. While waiting, I spotted a park sign that said dog off-leash dog park. We decide to park and check it out.
We were there on a Sunday afternoon and found a parking spot within a couple of blocks. I can definitely see parking being an issue any time except Sunday afternoon though. Parking will cost you about $2 (but I hear it may go up) per hour except after 6 pm, Sunday and Holidays. The pay to park machine accepts cash or cards.
The dog park is across the street from the pillars to the northeast. It’s a small fenced area surrounded by concrete, streets and sidewalks. There is a double gate on the north and south ends of the park. It is one open area with no separation for small dogs.
At the north end, there is a gap between the bottom of the fence and she sidewalk that is large enough that Gretel could squeeze through. Fortunately for us, she hasn’t figured that stuff out yet because if she did escape she would run right out onto a busy street.
The park has a human-sized water fountain with a dog-sized fountain attached. There was a poop bag dispenser but only a few bags inside, obviously left by park visitors, and a sign that said please bring your own bag. There is a “dustpan” on a stick and rake for cleaning up poop and dumping in either of the two garbage cans. There are no bathrooms but in an emergency you might be able to poach one from one of the local businesses. There are no benches to sit on but the park is surrounded by a concrete wall and has a raised planter in the center that you can sit on.
People seemed to mostly keep to themselves and just stared at their dogs. I admit we didn’t try to start any conversations either though. There WERE a few smiles exchanged and when Gretel’s ball got stolen the dog’s owner brought it back to us. Still, Chester seemed to find plenty of people willing to pet him.
The only color at this park was daffodils and tulips between the park and the freeway. There are a bunch of white stakes behind the flowers with dog names on them. I thought oh, my…I hope those aren’t doggie memorials. The flowers helped add a less-than-sterile feel to the park though. The other neat thing was the Zen inspired rock formation in the center…..but I am stretching here.
I have noticed that if you walk around with a camera and a notepad it draws attention. I was snapping away and was gently confronted by a man yelling from outside of the fence. He asked if I was a reporter. I explained to him that I was just taking photos of my dogs and the park for my blog review. I never did find out if he thought it was a plus or a minus if I was a reporter.
His demeanor turned more friendly as he introduced himself as Patrick, a board member and steward for Plymouth Pillars Off-Leash Dog Park for the past 4 years. He also runs the park’s MySpace page where he posts park news and photos. You can tell this guy is just really passionate about this park.
I asked him about the white stakes and he said he said puts one up for every dog that visits the park. He asked me the names of my dogs and said he would put up a stake for each of them next week. It made me feel better that they were not for dead doggies. That would have been kind of morbid.
I looked up other reviews of the dog park on Yelp. It received an average rating 2.5 out of 5. There were two common complaints.
Some people have complained of a urine and feces smell in the gravel. They allso complained that the gravel hurt their pet’s feet. However, when we were there it didn’t smell and the gravel was small but round. It didn’t hurt my dog’s feet but they did have some trouble walking in it at first because it is loose and 4 or 5 inches thick. Think trying to run on the beach in sand.
Almost every review mentioned this Patrick guy. It seems like he is always there. Some feel he is a bit aggressive, some find him harmless and some like the guy and appreciate his above and beyond stewardship efforts. When I met him today His demeanor was firm but very friendly. However, he did abruptly excuse himself to go talk to some less than savory characters. He said, “excuse me, I have to go see if these guys are drinking”. He clearly polices the area (which may be a good thing).
There are several restaurants and coffee shops in the area that are frequented by a young, hip crowd. While looking for parking we saw a Mud Bay – our favorite pet store. After hanging out at the park for about an hour we walked two blocks up to the store to check it out. Staff was friendly as usual and gave out copious treats (after asking permission of course). The lady told me that it is the smallest of the Mud Bay stores. It certainly had narrow aisles crammed with tons of products.
The bottom line is that this park is best walked to by apartment-dwellers who live in the area but is not worth an out-of-your-way trip to visit. We were initially intrigued because this park touted a “view of downtown”. It did, if you consider a downtown view to be freeway, the convention center, a few run-down historic buildings and a few random office and shopping buildings.