The Orcas Island Park and Recreation District (OIPRD) and the San Juan County Land Bank
(SJCLB) are looking into the feasibility of providing a new, permanent home for the Orcas Off-leash
Area (OOLA) also known as the “Dog Park”. The proposed site is a 2-acre portion of the
Land Bank’s 115 acre Crescent Beach Preserve uplands adjacent to Buck Park and Mt. Baker
The present off-leash area, located on Port of Orcas land near the airport at the corner of Mt.
Baker and North Beach roads, is managed by OOLA’s volunteer board. While the Port has been
very generous in permitting use of their property for this purpose, there is concern that, due to
grant obligations with the Federal Aviation Administration, the use could be revoked. Tony
Simpson, Port Manager, notes that, “We enjoy having the off-leash area, and they have been
good tenants, but we cannot guarantee we will be able to continue to provide the space. The
proposed new location adjacent to Buck Park seems ideally suited for this popular activity.”
Last fall, interested community members began discussions with the Port and County Council
member Rick Hughes. The Land Bank was approached regarding use of some land for this
purpose, and OIPRD joined the conversation to explore how this might fit into the big picture for
Buck Park. Jeff Hanson, past chair of OOLA, has valuable experience from the dog park’s
previous move, and is helping facilitate the discussion.
Katie O’Rourke, current chair of OOLA, sees many advantages to the potential move. “The new
location would be larger, with options for both open and forested areas, and a frequently
requested space for small dogs. There would also be water for the dogs, shade, better parking,
and nearby restrooms. But perhaps the best part is that this would be a permanent home with
consistent professional management.” Katie emphasizes that the OOLA Board would continue to
be a source for volunteers who are eager to help care for the facility.
While all parties agree this is a concept with many positive aspects and strong community
support, there are significant steps to plan and build the off-leash area ahead. First, a provisional
use permit – with conditions suitable for an off-leash area and environmental protection – must be
approved. Funds will be needed to prepare the site and install fencing, parking, plumbing, and
signage. An inter-agency agreement with the Land Bank must be drafted and approved, allowing
OIPRD to manage the off-leash dog park as an adjunct of Buck Park.