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Is Lake Forest Going to the Dogs?

After 20 years, it looks like Lake Forest will be getting a dog park.

As I’ve said many times before in these columns and elsewhere, Lake Forest is one of the most animal friendly cities in the country, yet we have no dog park, no pro humane animal shelter, nor any other active programs you associate with being animal friendly (e.g., TNR).

We are the only city in Southern California to have 2 PetSmarts and a PetCo. As well, we have an animal nutrition store and more vets in Lake Forest than in many cities larger than us. Yet our Council has denied us the public benefits that almost every other city has.

(For more stats on pets in Lake Forest see my previous blog)

As deprived as we have been of public services, the recent change in the City Council seems to bring with it a new awareness of the needs of our citizens, who have more animals per person than most other cities around us. This change was very evident a few weeks ago when Councilman Robinson asked the Council to refer the creation of a dog park to the Parks and Recreation Commission (PRC), and even Council members Herzog and McCullough, who opposed animal friendly issues in the past, voted in favor, albeit reluctantly.

The question of the dog park was evident in the hearings last week to appoint two Commissioners to the PRC. Even before the hearings began, one long time resident used the public forum to say that he surveyed his neighborhood and found many people with dogs and great interest in having a dog park.

When it came time for the PRC interviews, Councilman Robinson led off the questions, asking “Having spent $8 million in the past five years on Parks, what new needs do you see, apart from the Sports Park?”  One applicant simply wanted “more” and another applicant claimed he had “no idea.” Still another said we didn’t need anything new, just needed to do a better job advertising what we had. But of the five applicants who actually offered a suggestion, four mentioned a dog park as their first choice.

If you’re interested in the idea of a dog park, you might want to review my previous post on the subject. There are three types of dog parks – the traditional type (e.g., Laguna Beach), the pocket park (e.g., Laguna Woods), and dog zones in regular parks (e.g., Dana Point).

Recently I received some info about the pocket park in Laguna Woods (it’s about 460 feet long and 33 feet wide). The costs of construction, including parking, were less than $200,000 and the operating costs are $12,500 per year. As parks go, that’s pretty inexpensive. And in all the years they’ve been operating, they’ve never had a valid legal claim against the City. Lake Forest is filled with small areas where pocket parks could be built.

But to my mind the best idea is the “dog zone”. You take an existing park and put up a fence with a gate in a small part of the park where dogs can roam leash free. In this scenario you save on the costs of the land and parking, and the only added expenses are some shade, making an extension off the existing water line, and the annual upkeep.

I don’t want to prejudge, so let’s see what the City comes up with. Stay tuned.

By the way, as sad as I am to see two-hard working Commissioners leave their posts, I was gratified to see that one of the new appointees seems very well qualified for the job. Victor Sheer has a B.S. in Parks and Recreation and has worked in Boys and Girls Clubs as well as volunteering at Heritage Hill. He’s a Vietnam Veteran and a long time resident of the city. Welcome Victor and I’m sure everyone is going to benefit from your appointment.

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.

JustUs February 11, 2013 at 04:56 PM
With stories of 10's of thousands of dollars of developer money being funneled through organizations that assist certain candidates in the last Lake Forest Council elections and getting that info from another news source, I think stories about 'dogs' should be a very low priority in the scheme of things. But I guess that's just me. Or should I say "JustUS".
Jim Gardner February 11, 2013 at 05:13 PM
Hi JustUs, I am busy working on a multi-part story about the recent "developer scandal" in Lake Forest, but it's hard work and requires lots of checking and re-checking to be sure I've got all the facts right. But I can promise you that it will be worth the wait. Meanwhile, for many thousands of people who live in Lake Forest, a dog park is good news and something to look forward to. For those of us with dogs (I have 2) it means not having to drive to Irvine or Laguna Niguel or Laguna Woods. Given the traffic problem we have, plus the price of gas, plus all the new traffic the City is creating, having a local dog park will be a great thing. Also, it's good to know that a qualified person was selected for the PRC. I really liked this guy's qualifications and I liked the way he conducted himself in the interview. I'm disappointed that John Irish is leaving. I worked with him for years on the Parade Committee so I had first hand knowledge of how well he could perform. But it's good to know that at least one of the new Commissioners looks like a good fit.
JustUs February 11, 2013 at 05:36 PM
The 'developer scandal', as you call it, is all second hand information now. We've already got the facts. They've been reported by another news source. So you would be rehashing old news. Better to just do a blog on what we already know. The 'dog park' is small potatoes compared to developers apparently funneling 10's of thousands of dollars through other organizations to help assist certain candidates getting elected to the Lake Forest City Council. None of this was mentioned or reported to us earlier. None of it was mentioned prior to the latest vote (last Tueday) at the City Council meeting. So all this talk of "sunshine" is absurd. It goes to the very heart of the integrity of the political system. What is more important? That, or a dog park?
Jim Gardner February 11, 2013 at 05:48 PM
Hi JustUs, Believe me, there is much about this recent "developer scandal" that has not been covered. The article in VOC only scratched the surface. I don't understand what you mean when you say "None of this was mentioned or reported to us earlier." I have been reporting on developer money (and other money) being funneled into the hands of City Council members for years. Six months ago I did an entire series on The Patch called "Follow the Money" which dealt specifically with this issue. I also mentioned it again prior to the last Council meeting when I wrote - "...tonight when the developers appear before the City Council it will be interesting to see whether they or anyone on the Council mentions the money which these companies and their representatives have contributed to existing City Council members’ re-election campaigns. I hope they do and I hope the City Council members who are honest enough to admit they took money, which isn’t illegal, will recuse themselves from any vote."
JustUs February 11, 2013 at 06:02 PM
"I don't understand what you mean when you say "None of this was mentioned or reported to us earlier." I was pretty clear. The information, re: the developers funneling 10's of thousands of dollars through 3rd party political organizations to assist in campaign financing, in the last few days reported by a local news source was never reported elsewhere to my knowledge. If that information was publicly reported elsewhere please post it so we can see it. "...tonight when the developers appear before the City Council it will be interesting to see whether they or anyone on the Council mentions the money which these companies and their representatives have contributed to existing City Council members’ re-election campaigns" Now that the cat's out of the bag I suspect they will to give an appearance of "sunshine" and "transparency" after the fact. The QUESTION is: Why did none of the Council members mention it prior to last Tuesday's vote that was DIRECTLY related to an issue concerning the developers that apparently provided the funding? Circle the wagons is always a common defensive tactic in politics. So that should be dismissed. Why wasn't this revealed PRIOR to the vote and PRIOR to when the information was publicly exposed by the other local news source. THAT is the question that deserves a DIRECT answer while we listen to pleas for "sunshine". I can't make myself any more clear than that, Jim.
Jim Gardner February 11, 2013 at 06:12 PM
Hi, The topic of this blog is the dog parks. I don't want to spend a lot of time on the "developer scandal" here, and there will be more than enough time to go over that issue when I publish my comprehensive report in a few days. Meanwhile if you think that a dog park is relatively insignificant compared to the other problems facing the city (e.g., traffic, crime, new homes being built, Musick Jail expansion, money from vested interests) I'd agree with you. But nonetheless I think it's important that we go ahead with the dog park even as we deal with these other issues.
JustUs February 11, 2013 at 06:32 PM
That's fine. I just wanted to air my opinion and first reaction when I saw what you topic was this morning. You commented on my opinion and I responded. But I guess we can agree that the recent news story in the last couple days about the apparent funneling of 10's of thousands of developer dollars through 3rd party political organizations that apparently helped certain City Council candidates get elected in the last election was not previously publicly reported by any other source. Otherwise, I would assume that you would direct me to that source. And if all this is true, I would assume that you would feel that is was not transparent and not in the best interests of the citizens of Lake Forest that those who were apparent beneficiaries of said developer contributions did not publicly announce this prior to voting on last Tuesday's developer matter which was on the agenda and that this does not exactly consistently jive with calls for "sunshine". That was my only point from the start of our discussion. Now good luck with your dog park.
MisturChips February 11, 2013 at 10:47 PM
I'm looking forward to a dog park. the NIMBYs will certainly complain about them for sure, as SOMEONE has to complain about anything that goes on, but to think I won't have to battle through traffic across the entire Saddleback valley to get to a park that isn't just some bark chips tossed behind 'spare' chain-link fence will be quite nice. There are, in fact, groups of dog owners who converge on a few parks in the town, and I've seen them coordinate a 'leashes-off' moment or two. It surely warms the heart to see the animals scamper and play with one another. It is my opinion that having such enrichment staves the 'angry'/restless dog syndrome so common with dogs that don't get out to see the world.
Mark February 12, 2013 at 12:08 AM
Are we going to wait until all of the challenges regarding the politicians, city council members, developers, and on and on are resolved before we get some respectable city services for residents who have dogs????? Just exactly when is that going to happen????. I want the new city council to take us into the 21st century..... even if we citizens have to "drag" them..
Jim Gardner February 12, 2013 at 12:11 AM
Hiya Chips, Good point. There are dozens of people right now with their dogs in the Parks and many of them let them off leash to play. Having "dog zones" would be no different, except now there would be a fence and some protection against a stray dog getting in trouble off leash. Also, the owners would be spared the $200+ fine that the Police hand out.
MisturChips February 12, 2013 at 12:27 AM
I wasn't going to mention the 'lookout crew' that comes along with the owners who signal when the enforcement officers are approaching so they can clip the leashes back on and/or scatter. Sad when you have to play games to do what's right, huh?
Jim Gardner February 12, 2013 at 12:38 AM
yup
For the Dogs February 12, 2013 at 01:40 AM
To JustUS, Please know Jim Gardner is doing something that will help many of the 9000 registered Lake Forest dogs have the opportunity to release energy. By releasing energy.......K9's become better behaved dogs. Perhaps you have experienced some of the neighborhood dogs whom don't have the opportunity to exercise. What a shame you don't see the high level of priority here. Please keep an open mind to encourage the dog park to be put forth on behalf of others in the city. This is not small potato stuff and would ask you not to assume what people feel. I know to many folks who can't afford to fill up their gas tanks at $4.07 per gallon and just take off to the nearest dog park which is in Irvine. If you don't want to encourage the dog park, perhaps you can donate gas cards to others that do.
JustUs February 12, 2013 at 03:50 AM
"Are we going to wait until all of the challenges regarding the politicians, city council members, developers, and on and on are resolved before we get some respectable city services for residents who have dogs??" On a scale of 1 to 10 what's more important? (1) A dog park or (2) Honest and trustworthy and transparent government? I think most rational citizens would put (1) at about 2 and (2) at about 10.
JustUs February 12, 2013 at 04:03 AM
JD. Fine. I'm not saying down with dog parks. All I'm saying is let's get our priorities straight here. We had developers reportedly funneling 10's of thousands of dollars through 3rd party political organizations to help certain City Council candidates get elected to office in the last election. Last Tuesday there was an agenda item and a vote on a developer issue. Nothing was reported prior to this vote about all these campaign funds that changed hands. And the vote passed 3-2 in the developer's favor. Yet everybody is talking about all the beautiful "sunshine" we have with the new Council. I say baloney. I say it's business as usual based upon this recent information reported by another local news source that was not reported before. I am someone who wants the truth, JD. And I won't let a dog park interfere with that. This is 10x's more important than a dog park. If there is going to be any change from what we've had in the last 20 years this needs to be emphasized immediately. Not given a back seat to a dog park. That is my opinion on this. I am not dissing Jim Gardner at all. His dog park crusade is fine by me. I have no problem with it. But somebody needs to stand on the outside, look in and ask some really important and needed questions. Otherwise all you get is groupthink and everyone patting each other on their backs about a dog park while the City gets taken to the cleaners.
Jim Gardner February 12, 2013 at 10:37 AM
Hi Mark, I agree. The chances of getting a new dog zone in the next 6 months is probably pretty good. The chances of getting the politicians to stop taking money in the next 6 YEARS is marginal. It will take a lot more publicity and probably changes in the laws, and unfortunately for us, the laws are made by politicians who write the loopholes that let them take "campaign contributions". So let's make life better for 9,000 families in Lake Forest (that's 1/3 of the population) even while we keep up pressure on the other issues.
JustUs February 12, 2013 at 03:44 PM
Oh, another thing. If Adam Nick is so transparent and such an advocate for 'sunshine' why exactly did he reportedly (according to the Voice of OC) avoid the media after last Tuesday's meeting and refuse to return phone calls about the developer funds reported by the Voice of OC and the vote on the developer matter that took place at Tuesday's meeting? I think we deserve an explanation from him. Why all the sudden so silent? He's normally not a man of few words when I've watched him. Let the sunshine in!
JustUs February 12, 2013 at 06:14 PM
My overriding question is: Is the new gang of 3 Voight, Robinson and Nick? And I think that deserves ample attention as we move forward. The favorable developer vote at last Tuesday's meeting was 3-2 with Voight, Robinson and Nick all voting in the affirmative. But I don't hear anyone saying that.
Rose T. February 12, 2013 at 07:38 PM
The 1950s consciousness of the Lake Forest city council has failed to serve the existing population adequately in many ways and yet they want more housing and people which they will have to serve also. When residents asked them to stop killing the animals at the county shelter, the bureaucracy spent money to decide they didn't have the money to determine if they had the money to participate in a joint city animal shelter, disgusted some through up their hands and gave up. Now residents are only asking for dog parks,It's not about money, it's about consciousness . "You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him". ~Malcolm Forbes.
JustUs February 12, 2013 at 07:58 PM
"Now residents are only asking for dog parks,It's not about money, it's about consciousness" And they will throw you a little bone with your dog park and call themselves heroes to take your eye off the ball as a diversionary tactic to steer you away from asking questions the developer funds and MUCH more important matters. Old trick. If you want to swallow that bait that's your choice. But I won't. I don't go for head fakes or smoke screens. But enjoy your dog park while the rest of the City may well get fleeced. I'm sure Fido will be exhilarated.
Jim Gardner February 12, 2013 at 10:36 PM
Hi Rose, Amen to that.
For the Dogs February 16, 2013 at 07:03 AM
Well Said Rose & Thank You More housing and more people.......means more dogs. Imagine if each new housing came with a dog or 2. Thousands less at the shelter. This of course would never happen though. For Gods Sake..... Lets step it up and get with the program to get some animals out of the county shelter and move them into a brand new Lake Forest Shelter people. It shouldn't matter what the cost ...The City of Lake Forest has funds to do this........stop pointing fingers and dragging your feet counsel members. We've needed a dog park for several years now. What will it take.
JustUs February 16, 2013 at 07:31 AM
Oh, JD, I have a feeling that the boys and girl will throw you a little bone to chew on by approving a dog park so that you won't notice all the other shenanigans happening behind the scenes. Voters and citizens are easily distracted. All of the electeds know this well and use it to their own advantage. It is sort of like watching a magic show. They show you the left hand while the right hand is hidden from your sight for a split second. It's called the art of deception. And after the trick goes down the audience claps in unison like a harem of seals. I hope you don't have to drive 15 minutes to get to the dog park, JD. It might just be easier for you to use Irvine's or the one at Laguna Beach. Good luck and enjoy the show, my friend. It's a show that charges no up-front admission. It's a different kind of show when you pay as you leave.
Sean Fletcher April 02, 2013 at 04:22 AM
Dog parks are as much about safety and responsibility. While many of the dog owners are responsible, I'm tired of Tamarisk Park being used as a "de facto" dog park in my area. I've quit taking my kids to this local park due to the number of off the leash dogs there (as well as the RC plane pilots and golfers that use it as their personal driving range). With plans to improve this park (both the playground and the sports field) we are going to see some conflicts and possible injuries there. Please find a place for a dog park.
Jim Gardner April 02, 2013 at 02:02 PM
Hi Sean, Good point. There are several parks right now being used as "defacto dog parks" because people don't have a dog park and they don't want to drive to Irvine or Laguna Niguel. This is dangerous not only for people with kids but also for people with dogs on leash. Hopefully the city will set up a number of "dog zones" in various areas which will be fenced. Dana Point has done this with lots of success. There are several existing parks where this can be done without disturbing the rest of the park. Alternatively the city could go with a new dedicated dog park. The issue is being studied by the Parks and Recreation Dept right now and their next meeting on the subject will be April 18. I'll post a notice on The Patch before that with some idea of the direction the City is going in.

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