By Thomas K. Pendergast
The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department will throw local canines a special treat: $2.7 million from state coffers to renovate the dog exercise area in Golden Gate Park.
“We are going to be breaking ground on the remodeled dog park,” said District 1 Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, at a meeting in the Anza branch library on Dec. 11. “We received $2.7 million through advocacy at the state level. I advocated for more money for a dog park because I noticed … that dog running area, training area had not been remodeled in 60 years.”
She credited local Assemblyman Phil Ting for dipping into the California budget to come up with the money.
“We will break ground on that and will be done by next year and it will be state-of-the-art. It is going to have new fences; we’re redoing the whole thing,” Fewer said.
At this point the project is still in the “concept” stage, meaning ideas are being gathered but no final decisions have been made, although planners already have a basic design in mind.
As a result of this plan, 15 fully mature trees were cut down along the southern and western perimeters of the dog park, which is located near Fulton Street and 39th Avenue, to make room for the expanded version, which will be separated into an area for small dogs and one for larger dogs.
“The project is about to go out to bid and we’re expecting to break ground in the spring,” said Rec. and Park spokesperson Tamara Aparton. “The trees were removed in early November in advance of the renovation. These trees were identified for removal to reduce potential hazards (as identified by the tree survey) and to eliminate conflicts that would occur as a result of construction. Removals were discussed in community meetings and approved by the Recreation and Park Commission as a part of the concept plan. Trees were removed in the fall, which is the time least likely to cause conflict with nesting birds. They will be replanted at a 2:1 ratio as a part of the renovation.”
Peter Millar is a professional dog walker who lives in the Sunset. He had a leash for each dog in his charge around his neck when he gave his opinion on the department’s plan, with which he said he is already familiar.
“It appears as though they’re trying to separate it into an area for large dogs and an area for small dogs,” Millar said. “That’s very helpful, I think. I like to see that. I would love to see a few more trees.”
He also said he would like to see something other than the sand now there, which he claims has bits of glass in it. But he does not think it is practical to replace the sand with natural grass because, he says, the dogs would just eventually tear that up anyway.
“All the parks that are allowed for dogs turn into mud without some kind of surface there,” he said. “The one at Alemany and Brotherhood Way, it’s just like this, although it didn’t start out that way. It’s just the fact of it; the activity that it gets.”
He said he would also like to see signs warning that the area is perhaps not the best place for folks to bring their children.
“People will bring kids here and the dogs jump on kids; the kids run and it gets the dogs excited. They’re putting their children at risk and the dog walkers are bearing the brunt of the liability,” he said. “When children appear, all the rules are off and the children are the most precious thing in the world and everyone has to defer to the parents and the children.”
Matt Rosenberg comes all the way from Potrero Hill to run his Siberian Husky “Remus” around in the dog park in Golden Gate Park, and he backed Millar up on this point.
“That’s a pet peeve of mine is when people bring young children into the park,” Rosenberg said. “That is a problem. Dogs, they’re roughhousing and stuff and some little toddler wanders over and then, you know … and then it’s your fault. So yeah, clear signage that has that would be good.”
He comes all the way across town because “it’s one of the few places that (Remus) can actually run a long expanse,” as the east side parks are either too small or not enclosed with a fence like the one in Golden Gate Park, he said.
Millar also mentioned that without trees there is no shade in the summer and the park in Golden Gate Park does get very hot.
“The sand reflects a lot of heat and on the days it’s raining there’s virtually no place to get a little shelter from the rain,” he added.
Sand is a natural filter for all the dogs urine. Plus sand is a soft surface for dogs to play on, less likely to get injured. Fake grass would be a big mistake.