Vashon Dogs – Off-Leash or on-leash?

A topic that comes up frequently is whether or not dogs should be leashed in public areas. Opinions range on this. Some say dogs can be dangerous and frightening, harassing other dogs and jumping on people, and should always be leashed when on public land. Others say we live in a rural area with cougars and coyotes, so a friendly dog sniffing your shoes on a woodland trail is totally fine. Many opinions fall in between, saying it depends on the dog and their ability to be recalled and to stay out of other people’s business. So what are the rules for dogs in public areas on Vashon? 

On Vashon, there are four  types of land for public use, and each type has its own rules about dogs. The types are: public parks run by the Vashon Park District, public parks run by King County, land managed by the Land Trust, and private land that’s open to public use. We’ll go over the rules that apply to each type.


On the Village Green in town, no dogs are allowed.

Dogs must be on a leash at Paradise Ridge and at Ober Park, but they are not allowed into the playground area at Ober Park.  

At all other Vashon Park District parks, dogs are allowed off leash, so long as they are not a disturbance to other people, and they can come back to you when called. The parks that allow dogs off leash:  Wingehaven, Agren, Point Robinson, Burton Acres, Jensen Point, Lisabuela, Inspiration Point, Tramp Harbor, and BARC. 


At most parks run by King county, dogs must always be leased. These parks are: Dockton Park, Dockton Forest, Maury Island Marine Park, Ellis creek Natural Area, Marjorie Stanley Natural Area, and Raab’s Lagoon. 

At Island Center Forest, dogs must be leashed. However, according to the Vashon Land Trust, they are not allowed at the ponds in the forest because those are ecologically sensitive areas. 


Some land trust properties allow dogs on leashes, and some don’t allow dogs at all. 

The properties that allow leashed dogs: Frog Holler, Shingelmeill Creek, Judd Creek

No dogs allowed: Fern Cove, Fisher Pond, Christensen Pond


Finally we come to private properties that are open to public use. The two most-used ones are Sunrise Ridge and KVI beach.

The signs at KVI instruct people not to have fires, but there are no signs saying dogs must be leashed. Zoning maps for King County show the KVI as rural, and in rural areas, dogs are not required to be on leashes. Although KVI is private land, owned by the Sinclair broadcasting group, it is surrounded by Point Heyer, an ecologically sensitive area run by King County.  Also, many of the borders between private property and KVI are not marked.

Dog on private beach

This leads me to believe that you can have a dog off leash at KVI, but you must be mindful of where KVI ends and private property begins. 

Sunrise Ridge has an area specifically for walking dogs, complete with disposable poo bags and a trash bin. According to the King County maps, Sunrise Ridge is a residential area, meaning dogs should be on a leash. 

Private property (such as the one in the photo here), such as beaches shared by all the families that live along them, create their own rules. If you live on a shared beach, or have been invited to one, find out from the residents what the customs are.

There is no off-leash dog park on Vashon, and a proposal to create one was voted down by the Park District. 

A generation ago, it was common for people to have dogs off-leash, and dogs would roam the beaches, making friends. But as new residents move to the island, the culture is changing, and it’s become customary to keep your dog leashed in residential areas. 

Here are some helpful links with more information:

Vashon Island
Author: Vashon Island

Vashon is an Island located between Tacoma and West Seattle. This account manages the website full on useful information for residents and visitors of the Island.

6 thoughts on “Vashon Dogs – Off-Leash or on-leash?”

  1. It might be helpful to mention that the reason dogs aren’t allowed in some areas is not because “new residents move to the island (and) the culture is changing” but because there is ample scientific evidence that the presence of dogs in sensitive habitats greatly affect wildlife. Migrating birds, as well as resident species suffer enormously when dogs are present. Vashon Audubon (full of crusty old vashonians btw) is a great resource for more information on this. We humans and our beloved pets have caused environmental distress over the years but we are also smart enough to figure out ways to make it better. If we have the will.

  2. I see the blurb stating that developing an off-leash park was voted down by the park district. How long ago was that and is it a proposal worth revisiting?

    1. The proposal was voted down by the Park District about a year and a half ago. A group on island had made a proposal to convert a portion of the BARC skate park into a fenced dog park. The Park District voted against it on account that it might interfere with the disc golf course that is already there. When asked if there was any other park that might be able to host a fenced dog area, they said they didn’t think so, and suggested people contact the owners of Sunrise Ridge to see if they’d consider building a dog park there.

  3. Can you provide a link to the King County Code that supports your statement “Zoning maps for King County show the KVI as rural, and in rural areas, dogs are not required to be on leashes.”

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