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Parks Commission Pleads Insanity

Dr. Jim Gardner
Dr. Jim Gardner

Albert Einstein said that insanity was “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” With that thought in mind, can anyone take seriously the announcement by the Parks and Recreation Commission (PRC) that they are going to reconsider finding a location for a dog park in Lake Forest. Just about a year ago the City Council tasked them with coming up with plans for a dog park, and in the months that followed, the PRC studied, discussed, studied, discussed, and studied again, and at the end of the day came up with nothing, reminding us of Shakespeare’s line “It is a tale told by an idiot, filled with sound and fury and signifying nothing.” After all the sound and fury, they came up with nothing.

The sad tale of their missteps and miscalculations has been chronicled too many times on these pages to bear repeating once again. New readers can click here or here  to read about what they did, or didn’t do. Suffice it to say these are good people, who spend time trying to make our City a better place to live, and occasionally do a good job, but recently, and more often, they do a poor job if you are interested in results rather than effort. Witness the fiasco with the Village Pond Park if you need another example of how poorly they achieve some things. Once more, new readers can click here or here if they can stand to read about more missteps and failures to achieve meaningful results in a timely manner.

But what seems like a pretty good demonstration of inability to perform is not interpreted by the PRC as such. Some of their members never tire of saying “In Lake Forest we do it right!” as if there was a long list of things we do right that every other City manages to do without patting itself on the back. On the other hand, there is a long list of things we don’t do at all, and this is rarely discussed by the “we do it right” advocates. For example, while almost every other City around us has the following amenities, we don’t have a senior center, a civic center, a local animal shelter, a nonprofit foundation that supports local groups and efforts, a trap-neuter-release program even  though we have several feral cat colonies, the aforementioned dog park, etc.

Between patting themselves on the back because they “do it right” and spending nearly a year with no success in finding a location for a dog park, can there be any sense at all in having them take up the cause again? Given the poor job they’ve done trying to get a plan to clean up the Village Pond Park, can they really afford to divide their limited resources and take on the dog park again? And with the imminent opening of the Sports Park, shouldn’t they focus on this vital new amenity for the City instead of being distracted by something they already failed to achieve?

Does that mean the 9,000+ residents of Lake Forest who have dogs have to give up the idea of a local dog park and continue to go to Irvine, Laguna Woods, Laguna Beach, Rancho Santa Margarita, or Laguna Niguel? No. If the PRC will appoint a “dog park committee” I’m confident that in less time than it took them to come up with nothing, a dedicated small group of people unencumbered by the City structures, will go out there and find us a place where we can take our dogs.

Of course, involving more citizens in the City has not been a popular choice lately. The Planning Commission refuses to set up a traffic committee, which they could do despite their protestations that it's not possible. The Council refuses to set up a Traffic/Parking Commission despite the promises of Council members to do so, and they also refuse to activate the Lake Forest Community Foundation. In a similar vein, they refuse to appoint a group to look into how the City could spend more of our $35,000,000 annual budget on people and businesses in Lake Forest, since we currently spend a paltry < 2% on our own. From that point of view, the chances are slim that the PRC will create a "dog park committee" and thus, as Einstein portended, we are faced with doing the same thing over and over again, and as Shakespeare said "filled with sound and fury, signifying nothing"

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Homer January 16, 2014 at 11:42 PM
"Validation through inaction."
Jim Gardner January 17, 2014 at 10:34 AM
Hi Homer. How true. Not only did they achieve nothing in the months they "studied" the issue, they decided in October to report to the Council that they were unable to come up with anything. Then they did nothing again, waited 3 months, didn't report to the Council, and then brought the issue back to the Parks Commission.
Jim Richert January 17, 2014 at 12:41 PM
This is extremely frustrating and hard to believe that a dog park location cannot be found within the many parks in our City or within the new Sports Park or on the many vacant properties in the City. You are right Jim - a citizen committee could probably find a good location within a few months. One possible location is on the vacant land at Forest Ridge and Lake Forest Drive - near a commercial area and shouldn't bother any homes. May not be big enough but certainly an option that the PRC may not have considered.
Annie G. January 17, 2014 at 01:24 PM
Why let the citizens participate? They might actually have some ideas, and the council might have to act on them. There be the crux.
Ricardo Cabeza January 17, 2014 at 01:44 PM
PRC or Dog Park Committee, Here's a start. From the EPA:**** Pet Droppings Pet droppings have been found to be important contributors of NPS pollution in estuaries and bays where there are high populations of dogs. Fecal coliform and fecal streptococcal bacteria levels in runoff in several drainage basins in Long Island, New York, can be attributed to the dog population (Long Island Regional Planning Board, 1982). Although dogs cause the more common pet droppings problem, other urban animals, such as domestic or semi-wild ducks, also contribute to NPS pollution where their populations are high enough. Eliminating or significantly reducing the quantity of pet droppings washed into storm drains and hence into surface waters can improve the quality of urban runoff. It has been estimated that for a small bay watershed (up to 20 square miles), 2 to 3 days of droppings from a population of 100 dogs contribute enough bacteria, nitrogen, and phosphorus to temporarily close a bay to swimming and shellfishing (George Heufelder, personal communication, 1992).****************************** The Soil Conservation Service in the Nassau-Suffolk region of New York collected data indicating that domestic animals contribute BOD, COD, bacteria, nitrogen, and phosphorus to ground water and surface waters (Nassau-Suffolk Regional Planning Board, 1978). Runoff containing pet droppings has been found to be responsible for numerous shellfish bed closures in Massachusetts (George Heufelder, personal communication, 1992; Nassau-Suffolk Regional Planning Board, 1978). In New York the large populations of semi-wild White Pekin ducks contribute heavily to runoff problems, while in a Massachusetts study, dog feces alone were found to be sufficient to account for the closures.
Jim Gardner January 17, 2014 at 02:31 PM
Hi Ricardo. I'm not familiar with any studies, but it makes sense that if dog poop is congregated in a dog park and disposed of appropriately this would keep if off the streets and probably out of the water shed. I imagine right now in Lake Forest we have more problems from duck and goose poop.
Merijoe Axe January 17, 2014 at 09:40 PM
Well with these wizards it's one of 2 things-they either are clueless or have huge ego's and fear someone might do a better job them them.
Annie G. January 17, 2014 at 10:30 PM
Ok where did talk of waterfowl come in this equation, like ducks are problem in our desert? Stay on topic, ric. I've got mixed feelings about dog parks, for if you don't have room for a dog, don't have a dog. This feral trap release, who has that? Since when is that a normal city expense, anywhere? come back.....
Jim Gardner January 18, 2014 at 10:53 AM
Hi Annie. Trap-neuter-release or TNR programs are popular in many cities. They are aimed at reducing the size of the feral cat population which is one of the highest costs cities have in the area of animal control. Feral cats can make up 20% to 33% of the animals that are caught and euthanized, and this can cost hundreds of dollars per animal. If you browse the Internet you'll find many examples of cities with TNR programs.
Ricardo Cabeza January 18, 2014 at 01:37 PM
Annie - Ducks were mentioned in the New York study that the EPA referenced. Jim has two articles on the Village Pond Park - where duck and geese mess is a problem. The purpose of my post was to point out that there is a lot of information available on issues Lake Forest is attempting to address. Scientific studies as well as lessons learned the hard way are as close as a computer. For instance, what happens to the grass when a park is turned into a dog park? From the Hoboken Dog Association: There are two problems with using grass in a dog run: (1) If the grass has short roots, the action of dogs running on the grass might pull it up in small tufts, leaving bare spots. Choose long rooted grass or use chemicals/fertilizers that encourage longer/deeper root systems. (2) Dog urine and dog feces left to decompose place an excess of nitrogen compounds in the soil. Most grass cannot handle this excess nitrogen. The grass yellows, and then dies, leaving bare spots. Entire dog runs that started out with beautiful grass have become barren dirt in one short season of dog urine spots.

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