by Brendan Sample
In the months following two pit bull attacks in Pastorius Park, Chestnut Hill residents are taking notice of several changes that have occurred in the park since then. In short, the dogs are gone.
After a pit bull attack was first reported at Pastorius back in October, a number of Hillers began voicing their concerns about the abundance of unleashed dogs that could frequently be found in and around the park. Many claimed that, especially in the wake of the attack, they felt unsafe going to the park for fear of any one of the dogs potentially biting one of them or their children.
These arguments became more numerous after a second attack in February, which ultimately helped lead to further efforts to curb unleashed dogs.
While the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation did not have the resources to enforce the city’s leash law themselves, it did commit to distributing educational pamphlets that outlined the terms of the law and where owners were allowed to take their dogs. A new sign was also installed at one of the park entrances, which now clearly displays that all dogs must be kept on a leash.
Despite Parks and Recreation’s claim that enforcement of the law would not be a viable option at this time, several Hill residents have stated that police officers have begun patrolling the park and have issued citations to owners letting their dogs run loose. This new enforcement policy has largely reduced the number of unleashed dogs in Pastorius, with the park being mostly empty during weekday mornings and afternoons.
These changes have certainly proved to be controversial among residents, many of whom have written the Chestnut Hill Local over the last two months to comment on the new enforcement. Some have argued that dogs should have been able to keep running around unleashed as they have been for years.
“This has never been a problem for me before because Chestnut Hill has ample parks with the added benefit that someone else has already mowed the lawn,” wrote Hill residents Meredith Markham and Travis Gold in May to decry the crackdown. “But apparently my kind is no longer welcome at Pastorius Park. What is ‘my kind’? A dog owner.”
Others have praised the changes, saying that a lack of dogs and a new pond with fountains have made Pastorius more people-friendly than before.
“If they want to have their dogs run loose and disobey the law – go somewhere else,” wrote park neighbor Jack Georgiou last month. “What makes them think that Pastorius Park is their domain to do what they wish with total disregard to the rest of the community?.”
Other Hillers are still hoping that a compromise can be reached that will satisfy everyone with some kind of investment in this issue.
“I’m glad the leash laws are being enforced, but I can see that a lot of dog owners aren’t happy,” said Vicki Martin, who lives near the park but stopped bringing her dog there because she feared for her dog’s safety. “I’d like to see an enclosed area for dogs to run free … I’d personally be willing to contribute to it if there needs to be a fundraiser or something.”
With the increase in people coming to the park without dogs, there has also been an increase in picnicking at Pastorius, which has come with its own drawbacks. According to Tracy Gardner, president of the Friends of Pastorius Park group, a number of picnickers have been leaving behind trash both on the ground and in the new pond.
“Last Saturday [June 10] I fished several plastic soda bottles and little kids’ yogurt cups with M&M’s out of the pond,” Gardner said. “This saddens me, and makes me wonder why people do not respect public spaces that we share with one another. Ironically, FoPP put up three temporary signs to ask the public not to throw anything in the pond. All of these signs were eventually removed by someone and thrown in the trash.”
Brendan Sample can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org