Pooch Park a howling success!

Dozens of canine Claremonters, as well as a few human friends, were on hand to reopen the Claremont Pooch Park last Wednesday.

The grand re-opening has been six months in the making, and features new grass, new lighting, a new irrigation system and new water fountains for both two-legged and four-legged friends.

Eileen Prendergast, the vice president and treasurer of Friends of the Pooch Park, was “absolutely delighted” at the park’s re-opening.

“It’s not just a dog park, it’s a social center,” she said. “The same people come, we meet each other, we talk, we share stories and we share dogs. It’s really important and we missed that.”

Mayor Opanyi Nasiali said a few words before the official opening, thanking city staff and especially the Friends of the Pooch Park for their effort.

“They are the ones who made sure the city council listened,” he said amid a chorus of barks and yelps from antsy dogs waiting for the gates to open. “They came and said we want the change.”

Ms. Prendergast noted that the renovations were borne from citizens asking for more funding during previous budget meetings. The idea came when the poor conditions of the park became too much to bear.

“Every [rainy] season it would flood and it was just terrible,” she said. “The drainage was awful, the grass was crappy, and people would complain.”

She corralled a dozen supporters to attend a meeting at the Blaisdell Center, where they all lobbied for changes to the park.

“Budget meetings are not well attended, so 12 people is significant,” she said with a laugh.

The effort paid off, and the renovations were included in the next budget. The city allotted $275,000 to pay for the renovations, including adding lighting to the north side of the park along the roadway.

After a ribbon cutting from Ms. Prendergast and Friends of the Pooch Park president Debi Woolery, the dogs were off, racing across the brand-new Bermuda grass and getting re-acquainted with their old stomping ground.

It was a sight to behold for Jed Leano, who was at the grand re-opening with his two dogs, Oreo and Sally. As seniors, Oreo and Sally weren’t there to play with the younger dogs, he said, but the park gives them ample room to chill out and take in the scenery.

“They haven’t done this in six months,” he said. “This is perfect for them.”

Mr. Leano was part of a group of Claremonters who moved to the San Dimas dog park in the interim period while the Pooch Park was under construction.

Betsy Coffman, who was at the park with her Labradoodle, Lucky, was similarly pleased. She had been going to Upland’s dog park in the past few months as the Claremont Pooch Park was under construction.

“[Lucky] was so excited, I couldn’t even hold him,” she said as Lucky bounded along the brand-new turf.

The renovations were completed in December 2017, but opening was delayed to allow more time for the grass to grow, according to Deputy Director of Community Services Dave Roger.

Ms. Woolery, Friends of the Pooch Park president, said the next step is to increase the lighting in the park, from a string of lampposts along the north end of the park to, hopefully, more on the south side.

But for people like Ms. Prendergast, the park is more than just a place to let the dogs loose for a while. She belongs to a book club that was created by park regulars, and received a doctor referral from another pooch park patron.

“The pooch park is a great place,” she said.

—Matthew Bramlett





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