At their last meeting on Jan 16, the Parks and Recreation Committee (PRC) considered once more a dog park for Lake Forest. Readers of this column will recall that the PRC was tasked with finding a location for a dog park more than a year ago, and came up empty handed. They made so many errors and mis-steps in their process that it required several articles to chronicle them all. Briefly, these shortcomings included –
Limiting the search to city owned parks.
Failing to look at county parks (e.g., El Toro) and county land.
Failing to consider the new parks which are being built in the new communities (Baker Ranch, Portola Hills).
Failing to consider the one park (Borrego) which met almost all the criteria set by the PRC and where there were no homes within hundreds of feet of the proposed dog area.
The PRC failed to broaden their horizons once more, failing once again to consider all the viable alternatives listed above. Instead, they made the recommendation that a future dog park be considered for the Normandale area. The stress here is on “future”, because Normandale is a large site that has so many hills and dales that construction is likely to cost many millions of dollars. The Sports Park complex took nearly 10 years to complete and was co-funded by developer fees. Now that Lake Forest is pretty much “built-out”, those developer fees will no longer be available, meaning the money to support a multi-million dollar multi-purpose park at Normandale will have to come from the City’s budget, and at the moment there is no budget item for the dog park or for Normandale, or for several other projects that are on the City’s wish list (e.g., Village Pond Park, Community Garden). Thus, setting the dog park for Normandale is a meaningless recommendation. It lets the PRC say they’ve done their duty, but it puts a dog park so far in the future that any dog who is alive today will probably not be alive to romp in the Lake Forest dog park when it finally gets built on the slopes of Normandale, if that even happens.
Why didn’t the PRC consider all the alternatives listed above? Who knows? Several commissioners stressed how hard they worked and how much time they spent on this issue. Some bemoaned the “pressure” to come up with an answer. Some were worried that more than a year had gone by and they had nothing to report to the Council. All that lamentation, but not a single one wanted to go beyond what little had already been done. Quite frankly, as a citizen, I am looking for results, not effort. I'd rather have good results with little effort, than no results with lots of effort.
The bottom line is that the recommendation by the PRC is not viable if the City really wants a dog park. OTOH, does the City really want a dog park? Apparently Councilman Nick does. He made a passionate plea during the Council comments section on Feb 4 for some progress in this area. Let’s hope that Mr. Nick’s efforts will prove successful. Here’s a suggestion – let’s create an ad hoc committee to solve the problem of the dog park. Just a few nights ago Mayor Robinson asked the nine unsuccessful applicants for the Planning Commission position to stay involved in City activities, but a few minutes later he rejected the idea of a Traffic Committee that might have used their talents. Now we have a problem that the PRC has not been able to solve. Let’s invite those 9 applicants and the other 20+ people who’ve volunteered for City positions but been turned down, to come back and work on this problem. It’s a good way to keep people involved, utilize their considerable talents, and it may be a good way to solve a long standing problem.