Neighbors upset about signs outlawing dogs on former Lincoln School field

Count this as one place that hasn't gone to the dogs.

Last week, Ashland School District put up signs outlawing dogs and other animals on the field at the former Lincoln School, which the district closed in 2005 due to declining enrollment.

The move has upset neighbors, who have used the field as an unsanctioned dog park for at least six years, said Carol Walker, who used to let her yellow-lab mixed-breed run on the unfenced field at 320 Beach St.

"We have a nice little community there of dogs and their owners," she said, "and now we've had that taken away."

The district made sure all of its properties had "no animals" signs last week, after receiving complaints from teachers about dog waste being left on fields, said Superintendent Juli Di Chiro.

The School Board discussed the signs at its December meeting, but did not need to vote on installing them because the district already has a "no dogs on campus" policy, board Chairwoman Carol Davis said.

"It's not that I don't like dogs, it's just that dogs and little kids don't mix," she said. "We've had some serious and dangerous issues with little kids stepping in dog feces and spreading them throughout the schools."

Lincoln is no longer a district school, but a preschool — Children's World Montessori — rents the property from the district and has access to the field, she said. Ashland High School also uses the field for sports games, Davis said.

Although most owners are responsible and clean up after their dogs, some do not, creating a health and safety hazard for children on the fields, Davis said.

"In a perfect world, if every dog owner picked up after their dog this would perhaps not be an issue," she said.

M.L. Moore, who has two dogs and lives near Lincoln, said she never saw dog poop on the field because the dog owners understood that other groups, including rugby players and neighborhood kids, played on the grass.

"Everybody's very, very careful to clean up after their dogs," she said.

At least 20 dog owners regularly used the field, Walker said.

On Monday, Gary Sisk, the district's facilities coordinator, sent an e-mail to district officials that included a list of the health hazards dog feces can pose to children.

"The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirms pet waste can spread parasites including hookworms, ringworms, tapeworms and Salmonella," the e-mail read.

Superintendent Juli Di Chiro circulated the e-mail to the School Board, which has received a few complaints about the new signs, Davis said.

"There's basically two reasons we don't allow dogs," Di Chiro said. "We need to protect the health and safety of our children, and unfortunately dog feces cause a health problem. The second reason is the maintenance issues that it causes for us. It's a big problem for our custodial staff, which has already been cut back quite a bit."

The neighbors said they understand putting up signs at functioning schools, but it doesn't make sense to ban dogs from a field at a former school.

Dog walkers in the neighborhood have been contacting the School Board to try to get the signs removed, Moore said.

"Everybody is just at their wits end," she said. "They're very upset. Everybody this week with a dog stops and talks to each other and says, 'Oh my gosh, have you seen the signs? What are we going to do?'"

Davis said she doesn't think it's likely the district will reverse its stance outlawing dogs on campuses.

"It's not a good idea," she said. "It wouldn't be appropriate. There's a reason why they're not allowed."

If they can't let their dogs off leash on the Lincoln field, the neighbors said they hope to get the city to allow dogs in another nearby park, perhaps Glenwood Park, Walker said. The city's dog park is about 2 miles from the neighborhood.

"We just want somewhere where we can take our dogs on this end of town," Walker said. "It doesn't make sense to put our dogs in the car and drive to the dog park."

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-708-1158 or

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