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Is Valverde Park going to the dogs?
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LATHROP –  It’s one of Lathrop’s best-kept secret – the new and improved Valverde Park.

After a $3.4 million facelift and expansion, the city’s only community park on Fifth Street in the Old Town District was rededicated with plenty of fanfare last November.

“It’s a beautiful park. It just had a $3 million renovation. It’s an ideal place for walking. You see a lot of people walking. And what do I come across? Dog poo,” was the sad commentary shared by former mayor Bennie Gatto with the City Council recently.

“It’s pretty sad when you have to step on dog poo right on the sidewalk,” he said.

But what he discovered recently while taking a walk along the concrete path that meanders around the soccer, football and baseball fields was man’s best friend leaving a fresh mound of territory-marker right on the base of one of the park’s decorative and nostalgic light posts that line the walkway.

“I’m a little upset!” said the city Planning Commission chairman who tries to make it a habit to walk around the park as part of his daily exercise routine.

“It’s mindboggling to me why anybody would let their dog do their business right on the light post,” he said with an ironic laugh. “At least, they could have taken their dog to the grass area,” but even that would be unacceptable, he said.

The least that people with animals can do while using the walking path is to “pick up after their animals,” he recommended.

“It’s your responsibility to clean up after your pet,” he said.

The good news is he has encountered the nasty animal stuff just that one time recently, but that’s no guarantee it won’t happen again, Gatto said.

Which is why he and wife Joyce made the suggestion to city officials to have “little dispenser things on a stand” along the walkway for such emergencies as when one’s four-legged friend needs to take a potty break.

Something like that would probably cost the city $300, Gatto said.

“But that’s a cheap $300 (investment),” he said.

Still, he said, it should be the dog-owners’ responsibility to make sure that they are prepared for such eventualities when they use the public park.

The walkway is just one of many amenities and features added to Valverde Park when it underwent an extensive renovation and expansion which closed the facility for nearly a year. The park is now home to the city’s imposing granite Veteran’s Memorial, an interactive water feature and a rose garden next to it, a brand-new bocce court behind it, improved basketball courts, a new children’s playground, drinking fountains, benches and trash containers along the walkway, and security lighting.