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.