Plan for new dog parks in Palo Alto wins support

Parks and Recreation Commission unanimously endorses off-leash spaces at Eleanor Pardee and Bowden parks

An ambitious plan to create new dog parks throughout Palo Alto picked up fresh momentum this week, when the city's Parks and Recreation Commission enthusiastically recommended moving ahead with two off-leash recreational spaces.

With its unanimous vote on Tuesday night, the commission sought to put some teeth into a proposal that has been painstakingly crafted and modified over months of meetings and discussions and that is scheduled to go to the council next month. While commission members have spoken for years about the need to expand the city's meager supply of dog parks, progress so far has been hard to come by. Most recently, a plan to include an off-leash area in the newly redesigned El Camino Park fizzled because of the park's proximity to the San Francisquito Creek, home to the endangered steelhead trout.

While El Camino remains a long shot, city staff is now focusing on two sites for near-term improvements: Eleanor Pardee Park and Bowden Park. The commission on Tuesday recommended that the city begin conducting the needed outreach to get these projects going as soon as possible, a recommendation that the council will consider on Sept. 19.

At the same time, the commission also recommended that a specific dog-park policy be included in the city's new master plan for parks and recreation facilities, a broad document that will guide the city's decisions on new programs and amenities. The plan is expected to lay the foundation for creating more dog parks in other parts of the city.

Chair Ed Lauing noted Tuesday that one of the lessons that the commission has learned over its many months of working on the master plan is that dog parks are a major priority for local residents. Currently, the city has only three such facilities, all in south Palo Alto. Only one is larger than 0.25 acres, the industry standard.

While the dog area at Mitchell Park is 0.5 acres, the ones in Hoover and Greer parks are 0.14 and 0.12 acres, respectively. Meanwhile, residents north of Oregon Expressway have no dedicated dog parks at all.

"There is a sense of urgency," Lauing said. "And the commission has more or less committed, as much as we can, for a number of years to the dog owners that we'll work on this and that we'll get it done."

Whether or not the city will actually proceed with these parks will be up to the City Council. But by issuing a unanimous recommendation, the commission tried to make the case for proceeding with these projects without further delay.

Commissioner Jennifer Hetterly, who serves on a subcommittee that has been refining the dog-park proposal, said that passing a formal recommendation is a good way to to indicate to the council that the issue of dog parks is "really important to us."

"We've been talking about dog parks for at least a decade and haven't made any progress," Hetterly said.

The two parks were chosen for near-term improvements because of their sizes and locations. The centrally located Eleanor Pardee Park is 9.6 acres, with plenty of unused space to "dedicate a large dog park with minimal impact on other uses, and with significant buffer space for adjacent residents," states a recent report from Daren Anderson, division manager for Open Space, Parks and Golf Services.

The 2-acre Bowden Park, while much smaller, also has an open area that, according to Anderson, is currently underused because of its proximity to the busy Alma Street.

"The proposed dog park site will have minimum impact on other park users and nearby residences as well as accessibility for multiple neighborhoods given the proximity to (the) California Avenue underpass," Anderson wrote.

Other parks that are expected to be evaluated for potential off-leash areas are Heritage Park, Juana Briones Park, Kingsley Island, Peers Park, Robles Park and Werry Park. The city also plans to explore relocating and expanding the existing dog parks at Greer, Hoover and Mitchell.

Hetterly said a basic dog park is expected to cost about $30,000, though costs would go up if a water fountain, benches or other amenities were added. Commissioner Keith Reckdahl said the new facilities are "well worth the money" and that he "wholeheartedly" supports moving ahead with near-term improvements at Bowden and Eleanor Pardee parks.

"We have a lot of people with dogs, and I think they will appreciate both parks," Reckdahl said.

Commissioner Anne Cribbs agreed and advocated for moving as quickly as possible on refining the cost estimates for the new parks and pursuing the pilot programs.


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19 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2016 at 9:05 am

I hope that all the dog parks will be grassy areas rather than dirt bowls.

18 people like this
Posted by Whambulance Driver
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 26, 2016 at 10:38 am

I hope the grass is well cared for, and I hope they control the fleas but don't use pesticides, and I hope that they don't use too much water on the grass, and I hope there will be ample signage explaining any restrictions, and I hope people understand what voice control means, and I hope the owners pick up the poop, and I hope there are poop bag dispensers available, and I hope the bags will be biodegradable, and I hope there will be trash cans close enough to throw the poop bags in, but most of all, I hope the habitual complainers don't show up.

19 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2016 at 11:54 pm

Hopefully this new dog park will be accompanied by much stricter enforcement of leash laws and dog poop laws in all other parts of the city. We are very disgusted by the behavior of self-entitled dog owners in this city.

7 people like this
Posted by Representation on the South Side, too, Please
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 27, 2016 at 6:38 am

Juana Briones Park? Clearly the City Council did not get the message that this part of town is not a remote uninhabited outpost to be taken over and colonized. We are starved for all kinds of amenities already. (How is it that the City thinks there needs to be parity in the rare instance when the south side of town has something the north doesn't, but never for the many ways the south lacks the myriad important amenities of the north while being increasingly cut off from those amenities from overdevelopment?)

Juana Briones Park is very well-used, sometimes overused, a central gathering space frequented by free range kids, the sole open and natural space kids see on their traffic-packed ways to and from school, or to and from the only place to hang out, the Walgreen's. It is incompatible with putting an off-leash dog park there. People on this side of town find their own places to run their dogs for general lack of amenities, but Juana Briones Park is not it. The school sites end up being de facto after hours dog parks (and much else).

So typical of City Planners, they never realize that the long view down their noses coupled with their myopia distorts what they see south of Oregon. Most people probably don't even realize that the City once not that long ago tried to put an electrical substation where Juana Briones Park is now, and neighbors had to fend that off, too.

5 people like this
Posted by Share for once
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 27, 2016 at 11:06 am

@Poor South Side in Green Acres:

The whole "we're so put upon in Green acres", Maybell, Juana Briones Park, Arastradero, bicycle oppression thing is getting so old. You all got your way on Maybell, so how about making some room for a change, and let the local dog owners have a spot please ?. I'm so tired of the Green Acres territorial behavior. Seriously, our dogs are better at sharing space than you guys are.

6 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 27, 2016 at 11:48 am

Great work, and keep at it... Needs to have small-dog sections, fenced off, at least in the largest dog parks as space permits. Reason being many owners of small dogs actually fear interactions between their dogs and large dogs (the dogs are fine, however, and find their pack relationship almost immediately). As such, the owners don't give their small dogs the many hours of "socialization" required to raise a confident dog, which makes the owners even more cautious.

It's a vicious circle, but small-dog sections in at least half the dog parks are the answer.

5 people like this
Posted by Representation on the South Side, too, Please
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 27, 2016 at 11:50 am

@Nasty GMYBY (Give Me Your Back Yard)

The whole "Let Me Force Something on People in Another Neigbbohood in the Stupidest Way Possible Because It's Easier to Call People Names To Bully Them Into Submission Than Work Out a Win Win Solution" thing is what reeks.

You think it's selfish to prevent the City from putting an electrical substation at the heart of our neighborhood, across the street from a school for disabled kids, taking out the space that is our only park, when there was a better place to put it nearer El Camino? Seriously?

You think it is not sharing to not let the City put a major road right through the residential neighborhood from the Cabana to Arastradero by Terman School so that people could shortcut that corner of El Camino and Arastradero? Seriously, from a neighborhood that won't allow sidewalks?

You think it is not sharing because I did not want the neighborhood school taken over so kids can no longer walk to the neighborhood school but had to be driven elsewhere, and the programs for the disabled kicked out, by people who treated it like an empty school site to be colonized for their own programs with no discussion or collaboration?

What all those things (and others) had in common was that here again, the missing ingredient was working with the neighbors and not treating this part of town like some kind of unpopulated junk drawer where collaborating to get things done well didn't matter. There's a sharing problem there, but it's a lack of sharing goodwill, a lack of sharing power in what should be a public process.

For your information, I did not get my way on Maybell. If I had gotten my way on Maybell, it would have been a win-win, like the only time the neighbors got a collaboration rather than a fight and nastiness like yours just now when they saved Terman school from development and still managed to find a way to get the affordable housing built. The City had the chance to take over the orchard property after Measure D - even work out something like at Terman, in hindsight, almost free land. We even asked them to just give us some time as a neighborhood to raise the money instead of selling it off. People like you were too attached to your nastiness and doing things exactly in the most deleterious and stupid way relative to the neighborhood, and only in that one exact way, to ever imagine collaborating so the nastiness won the day. THAT was what was selfish.

But there's no point in arguing that anymore with people who can only destroy and call names, and never see their own part in thwarting what they claim they want.

You should talk. Why don't you put the dog park where Barron Park neighbors are rejecting the pump track?

Like this comment
Posted by Share for once
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 27, 2016 at 2:28 pm

Huh ?
What is a pump track ?
who proposed it ? who wants it ? who opposed it ?
Is it a kind of dog park ?

Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2016 at 2:41 pm

A pump track is a type of children's playground. Palo Alto currently has more dog parks than pump tracks.

TOWN SQUARE MODERATOR'S NOTE: A pump track is a dirt bicycle loop.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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