Mack Town considers dog park

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.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Mack Town considers dog park

  1. AJ

    A dog park only makes sense if dog owners use it instead of people parks. Will that happen? Dogs running loose around and *on* playground equipment is a BIG problem, and the attitudes of some dog owners when politely addressed about the issue is also a problem.

  2. cu

    I love that someone has finally addressed this issue. I support protecting and preserving places for wildlife. I enjoy walking with friends and I am proud of the beautiful trails and walks we have in this area. BUT there is no where left to exercise my dogs. I value the companionship my 2 dogs provide and I in turn provide them a safe and loving home. I can not, however, provide them 3 acres to run and play. Dogs need regular exercise and not just a sedate leashed walk around the block. Vigorous playful exercise makes dogs both physically and mentally healthier, less destructive of the home environment, and less prone to incessant barking. A dog park provides the play area that we suburban dwellers can’t afford. A dog park could reduce the number of dogs using the pedestrian / biking / wildlife trails. A dog park makes for healthier city dwelling dogs who aren’t disturbing the neighborhood.

  3. Jack Durham

    I visited a really nice dog park in San Mateo, located just south of San Francisco. There’s a large fenced area for small dogs and a large fenced area for large dogs. It’s extremely popular and is used constantly.

    As Jason at the MCSD points out, there’s a problem with people letting their dogs off leash before they get to the dog area at Hiller Park.

    Perhaps the solution is to have a parking lot adjacent to a proposed dog park. But where could it be located? I don’t know.

  4. Rick Boman

    I want to add my voice to the community debate about a new dog park and rules and enforcement to make current use of Hammond Trail safer for multiple users. My suggestions are practical, simple, inexpensive and will make life much safer and more pleasant for both humans (pedestrians and bikers) and our dogs (large and small). I am a dog owner, a hiker, and a biker, and I am also well aware of problems in sharing these spaces. I can see the problems from all angles because I have been on the Hammond Trail nearly every day for the past 7 years.
    Unfortunately, I no longer take my small dog to McKinleyville’s dog park because the larger dogs are often dangerous, unruly, and sometimes improperly attended. Bigger dogs have attacked my dog on several occasions. But, our experiences are not unique. That is why the best-designed dog parks include separate spaces within the area so that both large and small dogs can play, communicate and run freely. Dogs of all sizes, and their owners need some peace-of-mind.
    As a community, we also need to make it safer and more pleasant for dogs, pedestrians and bikers to share the Hammond Trail. Currently, many of the bikers do not observe the rules, either because they don’t know them due to poor signage, or because they are rarely enforced. I believe signs should be placed on the trail explaining and or addressing the problems that arise with a “multiple use” trail. And, those who don’t observe the rules should not be allowed to use the trail. It appears that many of the bikers think that the trail is dedicated to their use, and that dogs and walkers should not be there, as they interfere with their momentum.
    It is often dangerous being on the Trail. Bikers frequently come up from behind pedestrians and wiz by at very high speeds, scaring people and their dogs. Some yell out “on your left” or something like that as they pass by. Sometimes they ride by so close that you can feel a draft of wind. As the person or dog on foot looks over their shoulder to see what’s happening they are in jeopardy of being hit. Some bikers ride this narrow path three across, forcing others to move quickly or jump off the trail. I am afraid that a biker will run into the dog’s leash and cause my dog to be pulled under their bike.
    The signs at the entrance to the trail on both sides of Murray and Hiller Roads are unreadable at 35 miles an hour as the words moderate speed are only 6” long and ½ inch tall and it is mixed in with other rules. We need bigger and better signs on the Hammond Trail please.  On the Hammond Trail, bikers should be required to observe a moderate speed limitation, ride in single file when approaching or passing people, and these rules enforced. And, the new dog park should absolutely include a fenced area for smaller dogs in addition to an area for the bigger dogs.

    Thank you for seriously considering my suggestions and for the work you are doing.
    Rick E. Boman

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