Pleasanton Weekly

Column - February 14, 2014

Dog park needed, but where?

by Jeb Bing

Dog parks have been on the city government's wish list for years and now a second one, or possibly a third, may be built. Up to now, a narrow fenced-in section of Muirwood Park has served for more than a decade as Pleasanton's lone place for dogs to run off-leash, although most of us wouldn't know that by walking around town. Go to any public park and you have to be careful where you walk. Even though most dog owners carry pooper-scooper bags as they walk their dogs, enough don't so that it's a concern, especially of sports groups who have to play on messy fields.

Last week, Mayor Jerry Thorne, with the support of fellow council members, asked city staff to recommend sites for more dog parks. Most thought that at least one would be built at Bernal Community Park, a largely vacant parcel of land where there are now lighted baseball fields and where another section will soon be developed with more sports fields and a spacious wooded park, with trails and even a flowing creek. A small corner of the new section is set aside for a dog park, but that's now caused a ruckus.

It seems that when plans for developing Bernal Park went to voters for approval in November 2006, all sorts of possible uses were listed, including a 4-H demonstration area, youth and cultural arts centers, but no dog park. To build one there could mean having to go back to voters, a time-consuming and costly process no one wants to undertake. That's the clarification Thorne is seeking after dog lovers, along with many city and civic leaders, want a dog park there.

According to Dogtime Magazine, dog parks are the fastest-growing segment of urban park improvements, with more than 600 off-leash parks in the country's 100 largest cities for pooches to putter around and play. Bonita Springs in Florida just spent $400,000 for a dog park that will include asphalt walkways, a shaded pavilion and picnic tables. Dog Wood Park in Jacksonville, Fla. charges $11 per dog for its new park, but maybe it's worth it. You get 42 acres of open space, agility courses, 10 acres of nature trails, three lighted acres for use until 10 p.m. and access for you and your pup to Lake Bow-Wow, a 2-acre swimming lake.

Seattle has 11 off-leash parks within the city limits, including 9-acre Magnuson Dog Park that has access to a freshwater beach. Millie Bush Bark Park in Houston, named for the English Springer Spaniel that shared the White House with George and Barbara Bush, is a sprawling 13-acre dog park with three ponds, water fountains and wash stations. Pilgrim Bark Park in Provincetown, Mass., consistently makes Dogtime Magazine's cut as the top dog park in America, and here's why. It's filled with wonderful structures, painted benches and tall sculptures by the surrounding artists of Cape Cod.

Closer to home, Point Isabel in Richmond is a one-of-a-kind, landscaped park offering 23 acres of off-leash freedom for dogs. It even has its own dog bath vendor, Mudpuppy's Tub & Scrub, and a gourmet cafe for people called Sit and Stay. Half a million dogs visit Point Isabel each year, Dogtime Magazine writer Pamela Abramson reports.

I don't know how much it would cost to fence off a couple of acres for a dog run on Bernal, but probably nowhere close to Bonita Springs' $400,000. Most of us just want something a bit bigger and more park-like than the narrow strip alongside I-680 in Muirwood Park. Surely, Bernal Community Park with its 318 acres centrally located in Pleasanton is the best spot for at least one more dog park and a place that would persuade dog owners to let their pets run free other than in the city's other public parks where we often see them running now.

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