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No dog park in our backyard, say residents

POSTED April 16, 2010 9:46 p.m.
Citizens of Turlock weren’t bow-wowed by proposals for new dog parks.
Residents packed City Hall for Wednesday’s meeting of the Turlock Parks, Recreation and Community Commission to oppose two proposed sites for new dog parks.
The suggested sites, a greenbelt off Country Walk Lane, near East Taylor Road, and a storm basin at the corner of East Hawkeye Avenue and North Quincy Road, drew near-universal opposition. Of more than 30 public speakers, only four supported the proposed park sites.
Public reaction mirrored feedback the City received when the two sites were first considered for dog parks in 2007. At that time a South Berkeley location, the current Sunnyview Dog Park, was the only site to garner a positive reaction.
“The majority of people rejected these things so I don’t know why they’re coming up again and again unless some people have some personal interest in it,” said Ram Saini, who lives near the proposed Hawkeye site, to uproarious applause.
Commissioners had hoped public opinion had shifted on placing dog parks in the previously rejected sites following the positive public reaction to the Sunnyview Dog Park.
“Why can’t they have them in their backyards,” Saini continued. “Why do they want to bring them into our backyard?”
Many residents who live nearby the proposed sites decried an existing lack of parking and the increased traffic and safety concerns that a new dog park could bring. Turlockers also questioned the cost of the dog park — which would likely be financed solely through community donations, though no funding currently exists — and the ongoing maintenance costs. City staff said maintenance costs would be minimal, given that the city already mows and maintains the existing greenbelt and storm basin.
The dog parks were also nearly universally derided for cutting down on available play space for Turlock children.
“I’d like to know who is going to tell the kids in the area, ‘The dogs are going to take priority over you,’” said Charlotte Rees, who lives near the Hawkeye storm basin.
Children even took to the lectern on Wednesday evening to put in their own requests to save their park space. One child went as far as starting a petition, presenting commissioners with a list of signatures in opposition.
Property owners near the Country Walk Lane greenbelt had a few complaints unique to their location.
Lots facing the greenbelt were sold for $50,000 more than other nearby lots, simply because of their site near a “tranquil park,” according to several speakers. The scenic greenbelt includes a split rail fence and walking path, per Turlock design guidelines, which would be replaced with chain link and yapping dogs, to owners’ displeasure.
Despite the widespread opposition to the two proposed sites, which were selected by Parks, Recreation and Community commissioners in their March 10 meeting, a handful of speakers still lobbied for dog parks to be constructed.
“Clearly everybody here is opposed to the dog park, but it seems a little shortsighted to me,” said Turlocker Walter Berg. “It almost seems like one of those things where it’s a good idea, but just not in my neighborhood.”
Former Mayor Brad Bates also voiced his support for new dog parks, lauding the opportunities for socializing between owners. He related a tale of a Scotts Valley woman whose dog park friends supported her through a bout with cancer.
Bates also argued that dog parks generate a large return on investment, both in terms of community enjoyment and tax dollars. Bates suggested a dog park near a highway exit could be a revenue enhancer, enticing traveling dog owners to stop in Turlock for gas, food and to stretch their dogs’ legs.
Commissioners thanked community members for their input at Wednesday’s meeting, and reiterated that the public hearing was only intended to receive input on potential dog park sites. Even if a location is chosen, further public hearings will occur before a formal vote.
It was also emphasized that should commissioners opt to designate an area for a dog park, the cash-strapped City of Turlock would not be able to fund its development. Community members would have to fundraise to make the park a reality, just as was needed for the Sunnyview Park.
Given the community opposition to the two proposed dog park locations, though, commissioners are heading back to the drawing board in search of new sites. Previously rejected Summerfaire Park and Centennial Park locations may be among the list of possible sites.
Summerfaire Park had previously been rejected by the commission at their April 10 meeting as it is in heavy use as a community park and serves as a primary storm basin in winter months, limiting the time it can be used as a dog park.
Despite the negative feedback on Wednesday, commissioners implored community members to stay involved in parks planning.
“It’s great that you’re here to oppose something,” said Commissioner Desiree Silva. “But please show up next month and talk about all the ideas you have for the youth in our community.”
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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