Bird lovers, dog owners at odds over wildlife refuge plans

SNOHOMISH, Wash. -- A park controversy in the town of Snohomish has pitted bird lovers against dog owners.

A plan to set aside land for a wildlife refuge is ruffling some feathers. The dispute is over whether dogs and birds can coexist on the public land without ruining the outdoor experience for some people.

Pet owner P.J. Parsons thinks she should be able to walk her border collie at any public park in the city.

"Why wouldn't you let them go somewhere beautiful? Why wouldn't you want to share wonderful nature with your dog?" she said.

Her view puts her at odds with bird lovers, who believe the city should prohibit canines in the refuge.

"This is really a launch pad for people to enjoy the hobby of birding," said Bill Fulton of the Pilchuck Audubon Society.

Fulton belongs on the committee that will help create rules for the nearly 60-acre wildlife habitat. The land is slated to become the town's next public park, which will include prime bird habitat.

"We're trying to establish a refuge where birds can raise their families, and it's not consistent to have birds and dogs together," he said.

The city's project manager also sits on the committee, and describes the former sewage lagoon as an outdoor treasure that deserves a special kind of protection.

"If you really want to preserve the reason you're coming here -- just to really enjoy the wildlife, the natural condition, then you don't bring your dog," said Ann Staton of the Snohomish Public Works Department.

The answer did not satisfy Parsons, who said, "I would ask why, what their reasoning is."

The committee says pet waste left behind by inconsiderate owners is one reason it is looking to ban dogs.

But Parsons argues most pet owners are responsible. She believes the refuge is big enough for both birds and dogs.

"Well, the birds share the back yard with the dog, and everybody seems happy," she said.

The committee will present its suggested rules for the refuge to the Snohomish City Council later this month.