The Kaua‘i County Council turned away more than 20 residents who rallied Wednesday morning at the Historic County Building to testify on proposed legislation that would allow leashed dogs on the multi-use path.
Council Chair Bill “Kaipo” Asing explained the packed agenda and told the group they could comment on the bills when the council got to them around 5 p.m. or they could wait until the next opportunity.
Six people returned to testify, Councilwoman Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho said. Half spoke in favor of the proposed legislation and half against it.
The proposed ordinance is scheduled for a public hearing at 1:30 p.m. June 12 in Council Chambers.
Additional chances to testify on this “very emotional and important issue,” Asing said, will be afforded at the committee level and later on the council floor.
Among the community members who showed up to provide public input was Kaua‘i Humane Society Director Becky Rhoades.
Earlier this week, she released the results of a recent survey by Ward Research showing that most residents own pets and want the right to walk their dogs on the Eastside path.
“We wanted to truly see what the community attitude is regarding this issue and results show overwhelming support to allow leashed dogs on the path,” she said.
The phone survey of 350 residents, conducted April 25 to May 3, showed that 63 percent of Kaua‘i residents surveyed own a pet, while just under half said that they currently own a dog.
In addition, 71 percent of respondents support allowing leashed dogs on the coastal path, and 80 percent support the proposed ordinance allowing leashed dogs on the coastal path.
The 16-mile proposed path project will run from Nawiliwili to Anahola. The completed segments include a 2.3-mile stretch from Kapa‘a to Kealia Beach and a 2.5-mile route at Lydgate Park.
The county Parks and Recreation Department manages the path.
Dogs are banned from the path because it is a linear park and county code prohibits animals in county parks.
Iseri-Carvalho said she is concerned about the survey because it was done without county input and by a group that was very vocal about its support for dogs on the path.
“I am a dog owner and would like to satisfy my own personal interest in being able to walk my dog on the path,” she said. “However, my job as a council member is not to work for my personal interests but for those of the entire county. I am very concerned about liability and I am choosing to err on the side of caution as I have received many e-mails and statements from those with children, and the elderly and disabled that are afraid to go on the path if dogs are allowed.”
Councilman Mel Rapozo said he opposes the bill for several reasons.
Aside from liability, he said the original intent of the path was for traffic enhancement.
“The federal government provided funds for this county to provide an alternate route for transportation, not a recreational path,” he said. “I fully support the bike path and the recreational use that it provides. This was not the original intent and we need to remember that.”
Rapozo, a dog owner for 20 years, also voiced concern over the added cost to the county for maintenance and law enforcement.
“We are headed for tough economic times and adding more maintenance and enforcement costs to the Parks Department and the Police Department is unwise in my opinion,” he said. “Everyone should have the opportunity to use the path without fear of being approached by dogs, friendly or unfriendly.”
Councilman Tim Bynum is proposing the ordinance to allow leashed dogs on the path along with a bill to strengthen the rules regulating the responsibilities of dog owners.
“I see this as an opportunity to increase our public awareness about the responsibilities of what comes along with dog ownership,” he said. “We need to empower the people, not take away their rights and privileges.”
He has proposed an amendment that will shorten the leash law from 8 feet to 6 feet in public areas and require dog owners to clean up their pets’ waste. The legislation would also require individuals walking their dogs to carry on them a bag or something similar do so.
Kaua‘i Path, a community group working to foster non-vehicular routes islandwide, supports Bynum’s proposed bills.
Kaua‘i Path Director Thomas Noyes said the legislation, which carries fines for noncompliance, would bring the county path into a use comparable to similar systems throughout the country.
Bynum, who recognized the concerns of residents uncomfortable around animals, questioned why the county would allow leashed dogs on narrow sidewalks through towns and residential areas, but not on a 12-foot-wide path used by fewer people.
“The path has multiple uses … for transportation, for recreation,” he said. “Federal highways has assessed it and feels it meets the criteria. What is transportation? Anytime anyone moves from Point A to Point B.”
In response to residents questioning whether the path should be classified as a county park, Bynum said it seemed “wiser to address the issue straightforward rather than fight a technical battle over what constitutes a park.”
• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or firstname.lastname@example.org
The survey shows:
• Compared to results from the 2001 Pet Ownership Survey, both the proportion of pet owners (up 6 points) and dog owners (up 7 points) have increased since 2001.
• Fifty-eight percent of Kaua‘i residents surveyed were aware of the ordinance banning animals from county parks.
• Awareness of the ordinance was relatively lower on the Westside and among residents 18 to 34 years old.
• Only half indicated they were aware that dogs or other animals were not allowed on the coastal path.
— Ward Research