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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.

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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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