Dog owners may not be able to bring their pets to Blandford Nature Center much longer, said President and CEO Jason Meyer Saturday.
"We've allowed dogs on the property as long as they were leashed and being cleaned up after," Meyer said. "It's never really been a huge problem until we had the Highlands expansion this year."
Blandford Nature Center and the Land Conservancy of West Michigan purchased the 121 acre former golf course in January 2017. All together, Blandford covers 264 acres in Grand Rapids.
With the additional space, visitors are using the Highlands as a dog park, Meyer said.
"In the last few months, we've really seen an uptick in complaints about dogs running up to children, sometimes even jumping up on them and knocking them over," he said. "We've had instances of dogs attacking other dogs on the property."
Pets are required to wear six-foot leashes in state parks, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Blandford Nature Center is private and posts signs for visitors to follow that law.
Meyer reached out to the West Michigan community on Facebook pleading with visitors to leash their dogs, but said if nothing changes, the Blandford's attorneys are recommending a ban of dogs from the center.
The issue strikes Meyer deeply; his 12-year-old daughter, Sophie, was attacked by an unleashed dog a few years ago.
"My daughter has had several plastic surgeries," he said. "Surgeries I don't want any other parent to have to go through that. And I don't want a dog owner to have to lose their dog over something like this either."
The Facebook post was shared more than 400 times. Many echoed Meyer's plea. Some, like Robert Taylor of Grand Rapids, said Blandford should prohibit dogs from entering for legal reasons.
"When people bring their dogs there, they're putting Blandford at risk," Taylor said. "To even jeopardize losing Blandford, I think, is enough of a risk to prohibit it."
There is no timeline for a decision, Meyer said.
"It's going to be a gut decision," he said. "Because what if the next one is the one?"
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