Let’s cut to the chase.
Even conceptually, locating a dog park on Moffat Boulevard next to the Moffat Community Center that just broke ground is a big mistake.
First, for the purpose of full disclosure, I am a dog owner. I have two Dalmatians. That said, I would never use a dog park regardless of where it is located. I do, however, jog with my dogs on the Tidewater Bike Path that goes right along the edge of the proposed dog park fencing.
I also live a quarter of a mile from the proposed site. I love my neighborhood but I also know we are a shortcut between wandering paths for the homeless who use Moffat at times as if it were a freeway.
And let me make this clear. I have no issue with the homeless being fed basically in our neighborhood once a week at Metal Tech or the loud broadcast of BMX races that takes place even closer to where I live than where the conceptual dog park is located.
In other words, this not a NIMBY – not in my backyard – argument.
Here are the reasons why it is a bad idea, even conceptually:
• Intense uses aren’t compatible with dog parks.
It is being proposed next to the Moffat Community Center that will house the Veterans of Foreign Wars. This is a large and growing organization that has more than 140 members. The building when not being used by the veterans will be available to rent for occasions such as wedding receptions.
There are real concerns about smell and noise, especially if the veterans or others linger outside the building or even hold an outdoor event. Should a dog get loose I’d hate to see a frail individual going to a VFW meeting having to deal with an animal that could easily knock them over.
And while traffic on Moffat may not be much of an issue, there are more than three dozen trains that would pass within 30 feet of the edge of the dog park. Approaching trains in that close of a proximity makes a lot of dogs antsy when owners walk them on the Tidewater.
• It can be done much less expensive elsewhere.
Why plant more turf in the middle of a drought, especially when there are at least three large areas that the city maintains and waters week in and week out that get absolutely no use?
Ironically one is the place dog owners originally proposed for such a park 14 years ago at the Manteca Golf Course in the shaded lawn area along Union Road. The other two were previously approved by past councils – not conceptually but actually approved – for dog parks. One is on Magnolia Avenue just north of the parks and recreation office at the Civic Center complex. The other is on the northeast corner of Woodward Park at Bridewell and Atherton.
Unlike Moffat, the city won’t have to put in additional parking for a dog park at any of the locations. All three have grass that is being watered and mowed so there would be no additional cost to the city for ongoing turf maintenance. Two of the three locations have extensive shade in place. And Woodward even has part of the fencing in place. And as much as I hate to say it, because I see nothing wrong with my neighborhood and have seen great improvements on Moffat in recent years, the other three locations are more likely to be more comfortable and attractive destinations for people and their dogs.
• Stop treating dog owners as second-class citizens.
Remember the great skate park debate? Skaters as a whole were vilified when only a few were causing problems around town. The City Council moved locations for the skate park even more times than they have so far with the dog park. The only reason it came to a head and something was actually built is because one councilman at the time – Wayne Flores – wouldn’t let the issue die.
That said, the city managed to find the worst possible location to build the least expensive skate park they could.
Except for perhaps New York City, Singapore, and Hong Kong, the space allotted for dog play areas at the conceptual site is miserly at best and a joke at worst.
The current adopted dog park site — and there is one — went through public airing in 2008. It is the Woodward Park location. It is away from playing fields and intense people traffic such as the public pavilion and playground equipment. There is parking. Grass and trees are in place so the shade structure that jacked the estimated price in that location up to $267,000 can be dropped. Mowing and watering are already being done. There is parking. All that would be needed is fencing, water fountains, benches, and trash receptacles along with sidewalk extensions.
Now for the conceptual site.
Yes, the staff was right to look at all possible angles before moving forward with the community center. The council, however, showed questionable judgment by giving the dog park idea wings.
If there is really a concern with being able to landscape the portion between the Tidewater and parking lot, here’s a suggestion: Make it a drought demonstration project paid for by the municipal water department. It could feature natural grasses and low water use shrubs and trees. As for the space to the east of the parking lot, leave it for festival style parking. Or if the city doesn’t like the idea of barren land being left, offer it to a non-profit for a $1 a year to plant a community garden.
Just don’t let Moffat go to the dogs.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.