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Dog-gone park is overdue
Manteca dogs may finally get their day at a city park
Canine guests at the access gate to Lathrops dog park. - photo by HIME ROMERO

One of the goals Manteca’s elected leaders have for the upcoming fiscal year is to make sure the city becomes a bit more dog friendly.

The establishment of a dog park at a city park was tacked onto a list of goals to either execute or get started moving toward in the 2014-15 fiscal year during a Manteca council meeting Wednesday morning. It comes 11 years after a previous council voted to build a dog park in response to citizens lobbying for one.

Declaring Manteca has taken “too long” to move the dog park forward Mayor Willie Weatherford convinced his colleagues that it needs to be a council priority.

Weatherford said it entails taking a “piece of a park” and fencing it off with gates, water fountains, and a dispenser for plastic bags for dog poop plus a garbage can. The mayor said the maintenance consists almost exclusively of watering, mowing, and edging or things that are already being done at parks.

The mayor noted that he recently visited the Lathrop dog park that’s located along a levee. He pointed out that it is a fairly simple, straightforward project.

Dog lovers in Manteca first sought a dog park in 2001. That was when the original plan was floated by several citizens led by Park West neighborhood resident Karen Grupe. A year later the Dog Owners Group of Manteca was organized.

In 2003 the council at the time approved establishing a canine recreational complex on the grass area west of the Manteca Senior Center rear parking lot and north of the Parks and Recreation building at the Civic Center complex. They had considered and rejected a proposal to place a dog park at the Manteca Golf Park directly across from the tennis courts on Union Road.

The dog park at the time had a price tag of $60,000. Manteca DOG representatives said the organization was willing to help reduce the price tag by at least 25 percent by arranging for the donation of fencing materials.

The Civic Center was viewed as a temporary location since it was believed  expansion of city offices could require the land in 10 years. Eleven years later the city has neither created a dog park nor expanded city hall.

The project went south in 2003 because dog lovers could only secure pledges for half of the $15,000 in materials they pledged. It was noted at the time that no other group of recreational enthusiasts using city parks such as golfers, tennis players, soccer groups or baseball teams were ever required to raise money or materials in  order for the city to build a recreational amenity for their use.


Council OKs dog park for a 2nd time but different location

In 2007, the city adopted a new location for a possible dog park. The location is on the northeast corner of the 52-acre park where Woodward Avenue and Bridewell Avenue. It is on the outer edge of the storm retention basin where an amphitheatre is proposed. There are already a number of stately sycamore trees already in place.

The site requires fencing, a tap for drinking water for dogs —and humans — as well as benches and dog scoop stations. The Parks and Recreation Commission in their master plan for Woodward Park adopted in the summer of 2007 tossed in a large shade structure to bring the total cost for a dog park to $250,261. Nothing happened.

The dog park project was revived again in 2008 as dog lovers started pushing for progress. Believing the Woodward Park site wasn’t favored by the city even though it had been adopted but not acted on, they suggested other possible locations. One suggested was to use the Button Estates Park sandwiched between the Manteca Christian Center and Discovery Creek Drive that is rarely used by humans as the location for the dog park. By that time Lathrop already had a dog park even though they didn’t start talking about having one until three years after Manteca voted to establish a dog park.


Mayor suggested starting with simple version of dog park 5 years ago

In January 2009 frustrated that no progress had been made, Weatherford suggested basic fencing and perhaps a pooper scooper station was all that was needed to get Manteca’s first dog park started. Weatherford at the time said the city should do what it can afford which means building the dog park in phases. If not, he predicted the dog park probably won’t get built for years.

By May of 2009 the city mulled tapping into the $300,000 it had in park reserves at the time to build the park that had been pared down to $108,000. The dog park plan as adopted by the Parks and Recreation Commission calls for 24,000 square feet or a half acre for large dogs and 13,500 square feet or a third of an acre for small dogs with a double entry gate. Council directed staff to work on a proposal to place a $1 surcharge on dog licenses to help defray the estimated $15,000 annual park maintenance cost.

Shortly thereafter, city finances went into a tailspin as the Great Recession slammed the economy.

The city up until two weeks ago had funds that they could have used to pay for the creation of a dog park and other amenities already adopted for Woodward Park.

The last redevelopment bond act included $2 million in funding for community parks. Although Woodward Park wasn’t specifically mentioned in the bond documents the council at the time considered the RDA a possible source for funding improvements such as the amphitheatre, additional parking and tennis courts. The language in the bond refers to the $2 million going to community parks but nothing specific.

But then two years ago the city came up with the family entertainment zone concept next to Big League Dreams that would be built around a community park.

The council earlier this month designated the $2 million to go toward the FEZ community park project.