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Expanded dog park would give four-legged friends something to wag about

City to add fenced area for small dogs, increase enclosure for larger ones at Mitchell Park

The entrance to the Mitchell Park dog park in Palo Alto. The city plans to enlarge the space from 0.54 acres to 0.82 acres. Embarcadero Media file photo by Sinead Chang.

Palo Alto's newest park project will give local dog owners a reason to cheer while offering their companions more room to roam.

The city is moving ahead with a plan to expand the existing dog park at Mitchell Park and to add a separate fenced-in enclosure for small dogs. The city's Parks and Recreation Commission and City Council are scheduled to formally approve the project in the coming months, paving the way for the expansion to be completed by the beginning of 2023.

The Mitchell Park project is part of a recent push by the city to open more dog parks, a key goal in the parks master plan that the council approved in 2017. The parks plan envisions six dedicated dog parks. Since the plan's adoption, the city has opened a new dog park at Peers Park, which at 0.84 acres is now the largest such amenity in the city.

Once completed, the Mitchell Park dog area would snag that designation. The current dog park, which is 0.54 acres in size, would become 0.82 acres. The plan also calls for adding a separate 0.1-acre enclosure specifically for small dogs. The two enclosures would be separated by a hilly recreation area with picnic tables.

The project also includes an addition of benches near both parks, an upgraded irrigation system to maintain the grass in the expanded dog park area and a replacement of the grass on the hilltop between the parks with a "no mow" variety to reduce maintenance. The larger dog park would be moved farther away from Adobe Creek to maintain a 10-foot easement.

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The city's Parks and Recreation Commission tentatively endorsed the project last week, even as some members recommended minor revisions to increase the number of trees between the dog park and the creek.

Commissioner Amanda Brown, a dog owner who serves as the commission's liaison for dog parks, said during the June 28 review that she believes the project accomplishes many goals, including expanding dog park access, reducing water use and cutting down on maintenance costs.

She also lauded the idea of creating a special space for smaller dogs, some of whom may be intimidated by the existing park. The Peers Park dog park also has a designated space for smaller dogs that is separated from the main play area by a chain-link fence.

"Having the small dog next to large dog areas is great for some dogs, but there's also a lot of yapping that goes between the chain-link fences," Brown said. "I think this is a great plus for the community to have separate spaces where those dogs can feel safe and play."

Peter Jensen, landscape architect with the Public Works Department, concurred and suggested that small dogs "can get a little bit overwhelmed in a larger dog park area." He called the Mitchell Park project a "low-hanging fruit" when it comes to adding dog amenities.

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"We have a large facility already that has the opportunity to be expanded for more dog users," Jensen said. "Just to help expand the system, we felt this was a good direction to go. We will definitely still be working to find places to either have more dog parks or off-leash pilot programs in other parks in the future."

The city has been discussing ways to create more dog parks in Palo Alto for more than a decade. Aside from the facilities at Peers and Mitchell parks, the city's only two dog parks are the 0.06-acre enclosure at Greer Park and a 0.14-acre one at Hoover Park. The city also plans to add a dog park on Boulware Park, which is slated to be expanded next spring.

Commissioner Shani Kleinhaus argued that as the city creates new recreational amenities, it should also do whatever it can to enhance natural ecosystems at local parks. She suggested that the city increase the buffer between the expanded dog area at Mitchell Park and the creek by another 10 feet to make room for additional trees.

"A dog park is a huge amenity to the community," Kleinhaus said. "People connect, talk about dogs and their children, then they become friends. I have friends from the dog park. I think it's a really important amenity.

"But providing shade near a creek in a natural area and restoring a little bit of that nature I think in this park is critical."

From left, dog owners Elan Winkler and her border collie Fern; Nancy Friedland and her basset hound Rose; and Chuck Karish and his poodle Presley visit the Mitchell Park dog park on July 28, 2019. Embarcadero Media file photo by Sinead Chang.

Gennady Sheyner
 
Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

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Expanded dog park would give four-legged friends something to wag about

City to add fenced area for small dogs, increase enclosure for larger ones at Mitchell Park

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Jul 6, 2022, 4:57 pm

Palo Alto's newest park project will give local dog owners a reason to cheer while offering their companions more room to roam.

The city is moving ahead with a plan to expand the existing dog park at Mitchell Park and to add a separate fenced-in enclosure for small dogs. The city's Parks and Recreation Commission and City Council are scheduled to formally approve the project in the coming months, paving the way for the expansion to be completed by the beginning of 2023.

The Mitchell Park project is part of a recent push by the city to open more dog parks, a key goal in the parks master plan that the council approved in 2017. The parks plan envisions six dedicated dog parks. Since the plan's adoption, the city has opened a new dog park at Peers Park, which at 0.84 acres is now the largest such amenity in the city.

Once completed, the Mitchell Park dog area would snag that designation. The current dog park, which is 0.54 acres in size, would become 0.82 acres. The plan also calls for adding a separate 0.1-acre enclosure specifically for small dogs. The two enclosures would be separated by a hilly recreation area with picnic tables.

The project also includes an addition of benches near both parks, an upgraded irrigation system to maintain the grass in the expanded dog park area and a replacement of the grass on the hilltop between the parks with a "no mow" variety to reduce maintenance. The larger dog park would be moved farther away from Adobe Creek to maintain a 10-foot easement.

The city's Parks and Recreation Commission tentatively endorsed the project last week, even as some members recommended minor revisions to increase the number of trees between the dog park and the creek.

Commissioner Amanda Brown, a dog owner who serves as the commission's liaison for dog parks, said during the June 28 review that she believes the project accomplishes many goals, including expanding dog park access, reducing water use and cutting down on maintenance costs.

She also lauded the idea of creating a special space for smaller dogs, some of whom may be intimidated by the existing park. The Peers Park dog park also has a designated space for smaller dogs that is separated from the main play area by a chain-link fence.

"Having the small dog next to large dog areas is great for some dogs, but there's also a lot of yapping that goes between the chain-link fences," Brown said. "I think this is a great plus for the community to have separate spaces where those dogs can feel safe and play."

Peter Jensen, landscape architect with the Public Works Department, concurred and suggested that small dogs "can get a little bit overwhelmed in a larger dog park area." He called the Mitchell Park project a "low-hanging fruit" when it comes to adding dog amenities.

"We have a large facility already that has the opportunity to be expanded for more dog users," Jensen said. "Just to help expand the system, we felt this was a good direction to go. We will definitely still be working to find places to either have more dog parks or off-leash pilot programs in other parks in the future."

The city has been discussing ways to create more dog parks in Palo Alto for more than a decade. Aside from the facilities at Peers and Mitchell parks, the city's only two dog parks are the 0.06-acre enclosure at Greer Park and a 0.14-acre one at Hoover Park. The city also plans to add a dog park on Boulware Park, which is slated to be expanded next spring.

Commissioner Shani Kleinhaus argued that as the city creates new recreational amenities, it should also do whatever it can to enhance natural ecosystems at local parks. She suggested that the city increase the buffer between the expanded dog area at Mitchell Park and the creek by another 10 feet to make room for additional trees.

"A dog park is a huge amenity to the community," Kleinhaus said. "People connect, talk about dogs and their children, then they become friends. I have friends from the dog park. I think it's a really important amenity.

"But providing shade near a creek in a natural area and restoring a little bit of that nature I think in this park is critical."

Comments

jguislin
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Jul 7, 2022 at 11:04 am
jguislin, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Jul 7, 2022 at 11:04 am

While I am cheered that Palo Alto is willing to invest in dog parks, I would prefer the priority to be creating new dog parks in underserved areas, not just make existing parks nicer. Mitchell Park is 3 miles from my home near University Ave. and my dog cannot walk there, play and then walk home. For years I have encouraged the Parks and Rec Commission to look at the pocket parks (Timothy Hopkins Creekside Parks) along Palo Alto Ave as a great option to create dog parks in north Palo Alto. There is already a fence along 3 sides and these parks are on a low traffic street. The Commissioners do not appear to be interested in looking into this option. Let's put some geographic equity in where we invest in these community resources.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2022 at 11:23 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Jul 7, 2022 at 11:23 am

I agree that there should be more dog runs in other parks in Palo Alto with facilities for disposing of poop in all parks.

Speaking of which, how about getting some people facilities in the Baylands? What happens when a person wants to poop or pee while there!


David V
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Jul 7, 2022 at 11:48 am
David V, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Jul 7, 2022 at 11:48 am

I've watched them repurpose in someway every few years over the past 3 decades. Dog parks need character & personality as much as space & 'stuff'; something this park has never been able to manifest. Don't know why. There is some stiff competition around south PA.


Judy
Registered user
South of Midtown
on Jul 7, 2022 at 2:29 pm
Judy, South of Midtown
Registered user
on Jul 7, 2022 at 2:29 pm

The park is large and mostly empty almost everyday. I suggest the money spent more on children parks, living conditions of seniors, disables, and homeless/campers. And art institutes/museums/galleries.
Speaking from daily experiences. I live near the park and see the dog park, and hear the dog barks daily.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 7, 2022 at 3:14 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jul 7, 2022 at 3:14 pm

@Judy, I don't see how how can say the Mitchell Park Dog Park is empty all day. As a regular visitor, I can assure you that people come regularly at different times of day so there's the after-work ./late afternoon crowd, the mid-morning crowd, etc.

People know when their friends and their dogs' friends will be there and schedule accordingly.


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