Three weeks ago there was a wonderful fundraiser for the Turlock Animal Shelter held at Sunnyview Dog Park. Dozens of dog owners came to support the shelter by participating in a 5K dog walk. After the walk, many people stayed to visit the pet-centered vendor booths — and play in the off-leash area of the park.
It is always fun to see dogs romping around, leash-free and mingling with other canines in a friendly manner. Dog parks are good and beneficial to the community. They promote responsible pet ownership and provide an environment for socialization skills and adequate exercise among dogs. They can also serve as destination points for travelers and bring in much-needed tourism dollars.
The few times I’ve visited Sunnyview with my dogs, I had positive experiences with other dogs and their owners. I’m glad there is an off-leash park in Turlock.
However, I do not think there needs to be another dog park in town, at least not at this time.
The dog park we have is popular and being used frequently, but, to my knowledge, it’s not crowded by any means. Just because something is a good thing, doesn’t mean we need more of them. The Turlock Parks, Recreation and Community Commission can now focus their efforts on bringing the next good thing to town. But that’s not what they’re doing.
For some reason, the Turlock Parks, Recreation and Community Commission is fixated on building another off-leash dog park. They have been talking about it ever since the Sunnyview off-leash park area was opened three years ago.
It is on their agenda every month. They are constantly talking about where the next dog park will be located. In April 2010, dozens of residents packed City Hall 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.
At that April 2010 meeting, many residents who lived nearby the proposed sites decried an existing lack of parking and the increased traffic and safety concerns that a new dog park could bring. The dog parks were also nearly universally derided for cutting down on available play space for Turlock children.
In January, Turlock City staff suggested that the commission consider adding dog parks to the updated Parks Master Plan and to the Turlock General Plan update. This would include dog park plans in all future Turlock parks, which would avoid the need for adding dog parks to existing parks without the proper amenities — such as restroom facilities and adequate parking.
“That’s a very clean way to avoid some of the issues we’ve heard in public hearings,” Allison Van Guilder, manager of Turlock Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities division, said at that time.
That is a good idea. The General Plan Update is a blueprint for how Turlock will grow in the next 20 years. I definitely see the need for another dog park 10 to 20 years from now, and building a new park with an off-leash area in mind seems ideal.
This is not what the Parks Commission thinks, though.
On Wednesday, the commission held their monthly meeting at Centennial Park, located on Countryside Drive between Fulkerth and Tuolumne roads, their newest target for a dog park. This site was suggested by commissioners in an effort to pull motorists off the highway and possibly entice shoppers at nearby Monte Vista Crossings to stop by the dog park.
I personally don’t think dragging Fido along on a shopping trip is a good idea. Leaving unattended pets in parked cars is illegal in Turlock. Also, Centennial Park has no restroom facilities or designated parking area — two things that were found to be in high demand for dog park users.
Instead of spending every meeting talking about where the next dog park will be located — and wasting city staff’s time and tax payer money on creating feasibility reports — the Parks Commission could be discussing a myriad other things.
They could continue discussions on building a wheelchair assessable playground, or look into replacing current playground equipment that is decades old. The commission could play a more active role in the city’s recreation programming for our youth.
They could also host fundraisers and seek out funding sources for recreation equipment and their precious dog parks.
I appreciate the time and work the Parks Commissioners donate to the city and residents of Turlock. They are unpaid volunteers. But, please give the dog park issue a rest and pay more attention to the human needs in town.
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.