City parks commission to consider dog areas

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Potential locations for a new dog park are expected to be on the Oct. 23 Recreation and Parks Commission agenda. Recreation Manager Tim Kelsey will bring back his research on the issues raised during a discussion of dog areas at the Wednesday, Sept. 25, Parks Commission meeting.

The commissioners and two members of the public discussed the issues of dog areas, but the commission took no action on the matter. Kelsey said he wanted feedback from the commissioners before he spent a lot of time on the idea.

Seal Beach now has one dog park, Arbor Park. The population of Seal Beach might be high for just one dog park, according to Kelsey.

At present, Kelsey will be researching three potential locations for a dog area: Zoeter Park, Marina Park, and the beach. Issues to be researched will include issuing residential permits for a dog park and whether access to a dog park can be restricted to Seal Beach residents.

Kelsey expressed doubts about that.

The subject of dog parks came up during Kelesy’s report to the Parks Commission on Zoeter Park. At the time, it was the only location being considered. By the end of the meeting, that had changed.

The proposal wasn’t new. Some Seal Beach residents have long called for a dog park, as District One Councilman Kalmick pointed out in a Saturday, Sept. 28, email to the Sun.

“I’ve heard a great deal about the lack of any area in Old Town for dog owners to take their pets,” Kalmick wrote.

“Currently many dog owners are using the grass area where the original school buildings were taken down some years ago,” Kelsey wrote. “This is against our ordinances and is often in conflict with children playing in the same area. A suggestion was made to—on a trial basis—allow dogs on Zoeter Field during certain hours. This would be predicated on pet owners picking up after their dogs. If the self-policing compliance wouldn’t work, the experiment would end. Staff with input from the Parks and Recreation Commission is reviewing the idea.”

According to Kesley’s Sept. 25 staff report, several residents have expressed an interest in having a dog park in Old Town.

“One possible opportunity that does exist is allowing dogs to use Zoeter Feld for limited hours only,” Kelsey wrote.

Kelsey told the commission last Wednesday that this would be a temporary dog park.

District Two Commissioner Jim Dunphy pointed out that trash cans and bags for dog waste would be needed.

District One Commissioner Brooke Mabe said she supported a temporary dog park to see if people would behave.

Mabe said her goal was to support a permanent solution.

District Three Commissioner Tom Payne also expressed support for the idea.

Mabe said it would be a good idea to start out with limited hours.

One question to be addressed is where in Zoeter Park a dog area might be located.

“I can’t have dogs in the outfield at the same time people are playing,” Kelsey said.

Asked what was wrong with the status quo, Kelsey said that technically, Zoeter Park is not a place where dogs are allowed to run off leash.

Someone brought up the possibility of putting a dog area in Marina Park. Kelsey said that might get a “not in my back yard” response from the community.

Commissioner Payne asked about the Greenbelt, but the consensus among the commissioners was that the Greenbelt was not going to be acceptable.

“I don’t even want to walk on the Greenbelt,” Dunphy said.

Kelsey said a lot of people had put in a lot of time in the Greenbelt, which is located on Seal Beach’s Electric Avenue.

Responding to a suggestion from the audience that access to a dog area be limited to Seal Beach residents, Kelsey said, “I don’t know if it’s legal.”

Later, Kelsey said he had no control over people coming to Seal Beach from other areas.

Mabe supported the idea of having local dog area permits.

A woman who gave her name as Teresa said she preferred the beach.

Kelsey said he was not an expert on beaches. He said he could bring in experts.

Later, Kelsey said the Lifeguards’ job was to watch the water. According to Kelsey, the city would probably need a permit from the California Coastal Commission to put a dog park on the beach.

Near the end of the meeting, Payne pointed out that right now there is a sign that says no dogs are allowed on the beach.

Payne said a permitted dog park would be of value to the community.

Kelsey said it was feasible. According to Kelsey, Seal Beach issues permits for Arbor Park. Speaking off the top of his head, Kelsey estimated Seal Beach charged non-residents about $50 a year for Arbor Park permits.

Dunphy, however, preferred having a dog park at Marina Park.

Kelsey said he would bring the matter back to the Oct. 23 meeting. He said he would get information to the Sun by Oct. 14.

During commissioner comments, Mabe said she would be happy to have a dog park in Gum Grove Park but that wouldn’t happen.

Balls leaving Zoeter

Field an issue

Kelsey’s staff report on Zoeter Park also looked at the challenges of having a park in a densely populated area.

“The main challenges that the location presents are limited parking and balls leaving the field,” Kelsey wrote.

According to his report, park users have been good about following posted parking rules.

According to Kelsey’s report, the fences around the field are about 5 feet high. Higher fencing would require replacing the existing posts.

Kelsey’s report described such a project as “costly,” but said that staff members are working with city engineers to consider alternatives and include the project in a future budget.

Meanwhile, the city has made new rules for playing in Zoeter field. According to the staff report, a softball batter is only allowed one foul ball before the batter hits the ball or the batter is out. “Also to address balls from leaving the outfield fence no team can have a lead of more than one homerun,” Kelsey wrote.

However, Kelsey expressed concern that the rules could be too restrictive for youth sports.