Dog owners prepare for ruff times

Claremont’s Pooch Park is in disrepair. The grass is uneven—overgrown in some patches and completely dead in others. A water fountain on the park’s perimeter leaks and, despite repeated attempts to fix it, the leak creates mud and a large rut in the ground. These issues are exacerbated in rainier winter months.

To address these issues, the city will be closing the park from Monday, July 17 until December for a $343,892 renovation project, paid for from the Capital Improvement Budget. This long closure has, however, raised citizen concerns about the renovation’s scope and necessity.

Improvements to the park will include installing new drainage and irrigation systems; re-grading the park to improve drainage; planting Bandera grass, which should be more resilient than the current grass; adding new benches, trash cans and plants; and setting the infrastructure for additional lighting to installed at a later date.

Summer is the best time to do this work, particularly regrading, Deputy Director of Community Services David Roger explained. Rain in the winter would complicate regrading efforts.

Additional closures are expected for several weeks twice a year after the December re-opening, according to Mr. Roger. This period should allow the grass to recover from any damage the dogs do to it.

“The dogs tend to beat it up really bad. Closing it gives the grass a chance to reestablish itself and get stronger. It’s part of ongoing maintenance,” Mr. Roger added.

Mr. Roger noted that cities with larger dog parks close sections of their parks periodically to allow grass to regrow, but can keep other areas open. Due to the small size of Claremont’s Pooch Park, he said such a plan is not feasible here.

Claremont’s Friends of the Pooch Park has been working hard to convince the city to improve the park, and is excited about the improvements.

“We hoped that maybe someone would hear us [at the budget meeting] and they did,” Friends of the Pooch Park member Eileen Prendergast said. “This is a huge project and all of us are really grateful that it’s finally happening.”

Claremont’s residents agree that drainage is a primary issue at the park.

“The water collects in pools, and the dogs get all muddy,” Claremont resident Betsey Coffman said. Ms. Coffman brings her Labradoodle, Lucky, to the Pooch Park most evenings.

Despite broad agreement that the Pooch Park needs improvements, many residents are leery of the extent of the changes and the necessity of closing the park for five months to complete the work.

“I think it does need work, but I don’t know if it’s five months of work,” said Carmen Millner. “I’m not sure it should take that long, especially in the summer. We miss out on a lot more of the day. It’s bad timing.” Ms. Millner and her German Shepherd Bailey are regulars to the Pooch Park.

Jeffrey Wesson, a Claremont resident who has been visiting the park every other day for 15 years, believes that the planned changes are excessive and, beyond fixes for leaks and drainage, unnecessary.

“I don’t think they should be closing it. Just mow the grass and take care of the leaking faucets,” he said. “The dogs don’t care about the grass.”

Some, like Claremont resident Janice Montgomery, worry that the current plans to fix the drainage issues will fall short, like previous attempts.

“They’ve supposedly fixed this before, but it broke down again. None of the repairs have held up. It doesn’t last. I’m hoping that this time, they make some lasting changes,” Ms. Montgomery said.

Even residents like Ms. Prendergast, who strongly supported the renovation, are dismayed by the amount of time the park will remain closed.

“All in all, I think it’s a good thing, but it’s hard to accept that it will take that long,” she said.

Some residents also noted that the city did not properly inform them about scope of the work.

“I thought they were just closing it for one day per week,” Claremont resident Irene Meadows said. Ms. Meadows visits the park four to five times per week with her mutt Zebo.

Although Mr. Roger told the COURIER that notices about the closure posted around the park included a list of dog parks in the surrounding area, resident James Stephens said no such lists were displayed at the park, creating further confusion.

“I’m disappointed that they didn’t direct us where else to take our dogs,” Mr. Stephens said. Mr. Stephens brings his German Shorthaired Pointer, Dollar Bill, to the park two to three times each week.

Residents like Bob Soderberg, who visits the park five nights per week with Shelby, a mutt, worry that without the park there will be nowhere in Claremont that dogs can run and play freely.

“She loves to run. I can walk her at the Claremont Colleges, but it’s not the same,” he said.

Furthermore, residents are not enthusiastic about the city’s plans to periodically close the park even after renovations are complete.

“Look around,” Mr. Wesson said, gesturing to the dogs happily dashing through the unkempt grass. “The dogs love this park. Do they care that the grass is dead? No.”

 

—Marc Rod

marc.rod12@gmail.com

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