Let’s make walking as safe as it is healthy

Published 9:25pm Saturday, February 22, 2014

The board of aldermen’s decision to build a new walking trail with grant funds is welcome news. The planned quarter-mile trail at Bicentennial Park will join the multi-use trail at City Park and the walking area at Exchange Club Park as public-use walking trails in the city.

For most local walking enthusiasts, the city streets and sidewalks are the exercise area of choice though, and Brookhaven’s downtown, Old Town and surrounding neighborhoods are usually a hub of walking activity on pleasant days.

Do an online search, and you can even find personalized walking “trails” created by those who favor a certain trajectory through the city’s streets.

Unfortunately, an outdoor walk can become less pleasant for those who encounter an overly aggressive neighborhood dog left free to run while its owners remain indoors and oblivious to their normally friendly pet’s activities outside. Walkers who encounter such an animal learn to either avoid that street or elect to carry a walking stick or a golf club.

Although Brookhaven has a leash law, it is overlooked by a number of dog owners, who no doubt never think for a minute that their loving pet could be a danger to others. Unfortunately, not only is a free-roaming animal a potential hazard to others, it also is in danger itself from passing motorists who may not be able to stop in time to avoid a collision if the dog chases or runs in front of their car.

Brookhaven is a progressive and health-conscious city that has enacted a no-smoking ordinance for public gathering places and restaurants and a bike helmet ordinance for children. Our leash law also is a progressive stance that indicates the city endorses safety for pets and citizens alike.

Yet, many obviously well loved pets still run free outdoors. We doubt any dog owner wants to learn their pet has harmed someone or been hurt itself, and those possibilities can only be avoided by keeping the dog indoors, in a secure fenced back yard or on a leash.