From the jan. 6, 2010 issue
By Elaine Weinreb
Press Staff Writer
Does McKinleyville need a fenced dog park? This question was debated at the MCSD Recreational Advisory Committee at its December meeting, and the answer was an enthusiastic yes.
Although Hiller Park is viewed as a “dog park,” it only has one area where dogs are allowed to run off leash, and that is the meadow which is west of the split rail fence.
Dogs are supposed to be leashed in all other areas of the park, and on the adjacent Hammond Trail.
Many people violate this rule.
“The problem is enforcement,” said Parks and Recreation Director Jason Sehon.
“You can have all the signs in the world, but if you don’t have enforcement, the signs don’t do any good,” he explained.
“People drive up and open up their car doors and let their dogs run out, while they sit in their cars and eat lunch and read, and don’t even get out of their car,” Sehon said.
Loose dogs sometimes fight and harass pedestrians and bicyclists using the park’s trails, committee members observed.
A fenced area with gates is a necessity if dogs are to have an area where they can run free without bothering other park-users.
“The park has many different kinds of users, and we want to keep everybody happy,” said Sehon. “Right now we’re not accomplishing that. If we had a fenced area, we’d be able to give dog owners a place to go.”
Sehon said that in recent years, the number of places where dogs can run free has diminished sharply. People come from neighboring communities to use the park because there are so few dog-friendly areas left.
“A dog park would be good for McKinleyville,” observed Jeff Dunk. “People will stop there when they’re traveling, if the park is on maps. And for residents, it’s just a five-minute drive from anywhere in town.”
“I’ve been going to that ‘dog park’ for six or seven years,” said a woman, referring to the Hiller Park meadow.
“It really has enriched my life. I know more dogs’ names now than I do people’s,” she joked.
The meadow gets chewed up by gophers, and in the past, neighborhood residents have organized work parties to fill holes, so that their dogs can safely run there.
Sehon said that the Parks Dept. had salvaged a lot of chain link fencing from the former ball field behind the Safeway, and that could be used for a fence.
A subcommittee was formed to figure out what it would cost to build and maintain a dog park, and how to involve the community in reaching that goal.