Every dog has his day
As city opens play area for smaller dogs, it looks to expand park land for them citywide
Muirwood Community Park, the site of the only dog park in Pleasanton, recently opened a new addition--a "small dog-only" section. Set off on the north end of the park, which is on Muirwood Drive north of West Las Positas Boulevard, is only open to dogs 20 pounds or less.
Although larger dogs are not allowed in that area, small dogs are still welcome to play in the large dog area, said city landscape architect Mike Fulford.
The idea for a separate section came after hearing concerns in the community that people with small dogs are afraid to use the dog park, said Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kurt Kummer.
"It's a great addition to the dog park exercise area we already had," Kummer said. "I'd never seen a lot of small dogs at the dog exercise area, so I didn't think there was a need, but then when I talked to more people, many said they didn't use it because they were scared of the big dogs."
Despite an initial push for the new section and a warm reception when it was first created, it hasn't received much use since, Fulford said.
Pleasanton resident Betty Fontes regularly brings her 39-pound dog Josie to the Muirwood dog park, but has not noticed anyone using the small dog area.
"I don't use it because Josie is too big, but a lot of others haven't been using it either," Fontes said. "Most will bring their little ones in the big area since there's really no one else over there and they want to get them used to other dogs."
The addition is just one part of an overall vision for increasing the number of dog parks in Pleasanton with a goal of having one in each quadrant of the city, Kummer said. Although nothing is official yet, the city is looking into turning an area of Creekside Park (on West Las Positas Boulevard near Owens Drive) into a dog park and part of the conceptual plan for Staples Ranch includes a dog park area, Fulford said. Before proceeding with plans for the Creekside dog park, the city will hold a neighborhood meeting to get community input in the next few months, but no date is set yet. There is also talk of putting one on the Bernal property as plans for its use continues, he added.
"There are a number of parks in Pleasanton and we think Creekside might be one that has areas that are underutilized," Fulford said. "The success of a park is how well it's used and we want to make sure all our parks are really successful."
The unique thing about dog parks is that they can fit into odd shaped areas, making use of space that may otherwise go to waste, Kummer added.
Kummer said four would be plenty, even necessary, to fill the need.
"I live pretty close to Muirwood Park and I talk to people there and I find people are driving from all over Pleasanton to get there," Kummer said. "There are even people from Dublin and San Ramon. People are driving a long distance and staff would say it's one of the most utilized park areas there."
Fulford recently returned from a seminar on dog parks led by the former Park Superintendent of Portland Jim Carr. In Portland, 14 of the city's 256 parks are for dogs, a ratio slightly higher than Pleasanton which currently has one dog park out of 32 neighborhood parks. At the seminar, Fulford learned about maintenance and new technology in dog park construction, such as new synthetic turf that allows drainage into a sub-surface to keep odor down, while also being softer than wood chips on dogs' paws.
Fulford said he plans to consider these new design elements.
"There are so many dog owners in town and as the whole nature of people's dwelling habits have changed--yards are smaller and the days when you could let your dog off leash and run in the neighborhood are gone--we need places where dogs can get good exercise. Dog owners are citizens of Pleasanton too, and they need a place."