http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2008/05/30/dog-owners-object-to-removing-grass-at-canine-corral


DanvilleSanRamon.com

Newsfront - May 30, 2008

Dog owners object to removing grass at Canine Corral

Town staff suggests decomposed granite to replace high maintenance lawns at dog park

by Meghan Neal

A proposal to replace the grass at Hap Magee Ranch's dog park drove a host of worried dog owners to the Joint Planning and Operations Committee meeting last Thursday.

Roughly 20 residents spoke their piece at the meeting, fervently explaining that getting rid of the grass would ruin their beloved dog park.

The committee, made up of representatives from Danville and Alamo to oversee operations at Hap Magee Ranch Park, held the meeting because it's been difficult to maintain the grassy area at the Canine Corral.

"The conclusion we're starting to draw is we're doing the best we can, but almost no matter what we do come August it's going to be worn out," said committee chairman Kevin Donovan.

The dog park is closed from Dec. 1 to March 1, during which time the town has tried both reseeding and replacing the lawn. But either way by late summer/early fall the grass completely goes away.

"The question we've always had is: Is there a better way of doing it?" said Donovan.

Danville town staff suggested using decomposed granite, but residents said it's dusty, dirty, smells bad, gets stuck in dogs' paws and hurts the dogs' feet to walk on.

"I won't come here," said one fuming woman. "This isn't what my dog wants."

Unfortunately the deterioration of the grass is only expected to worsen given the water rationing that was recently mandated due to drought conditions.

The park uses irrigated water and is therefore required by East Bay Municipal Utility District to cut back use by 30 percent, explained Jed Johnson, maintenance services manager for the Town of Danville. This means the lawn can't be watered two days in a row or more than three times per week.

Most residents said they understand the problem, but none of them warmed to the idea of replacing the grass.

"What makes this park special, obviously, is having the grass area," one man said. "I think it'd be a shame ... to now kind of go backwards and make it the same as other places."

Another resident and Danville business owner presented the committee with a petition of 200 signatures from people hoping to keep the grass. She suggested that town staff research different varietals of grass that perhaps need less water or care.

But Johnson said the town has already done this, and none has worked.

"We're in our fifth attempt at a different type of grass," he said. "Unfortunately, as you can see ... it's not doing well."

One woman brought samples of astro turf to the meeting and distributed them to the attendees. The astro turf received mixed reactions.

"There's nothing like having the dogs play in natural grass," said an Alamo resident.

Many people offered to do something to help save the grass. They offered to donate money and some said they'd be willing to pay a maintenance fee. The possibility of setting up a nonprofit organization to raise funds was even suggested.

Reseeding the grass costs from $7,000 to $10,000, said Johnson. Replacing the grass is quicker, but more expensive, costing roughly $18,000.

Donovan said the problem isn't that the town doesn't have the money to maintain the grass, though. Rather, they're concerned about the water shortage and worried that residents are unhappy the park must close for three months out of the year.

But the residents who spoke at the meeting said they didn't mind the park closing for maintenance if it meant having a beautiful and special space for the other nine months.

One by one, residents praised the Canine Corral as more than a place to walk your dog, but a community treasure. People socialize with each other while their dogs run around and play, they said. They make friends.

"One thing's certainly overwhelming and that's the sense of community that I've heard from all of you," said committee member Bill Lombardi after each resident had had a chance to speak.

After the meeting Donovan said the general sentiment of the public seemed to be that even a worn down grass field would be better than some of the alternatives.

He said the committee would take some time to explore alternative solutions and likely hold another public forum in six months.

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