Thursday, July 19, 2007

Soule Park May Go To Dogs

By Nao Braverman
Ojai’s friendly dogs have few places to meet each other. The vacant, often empty grassy fields of Soule Park would be a good spot for Ojai’s canine residents to socialize, according the Ventura County Parks Advisory Commission.
Though they were initially planning to occupy a portion county-owned land near the old Honor Farm property, the local Dog Park Committee recently obtained permission to construct their facility at the west side of Soule Park, near the tennis courts, approximately a quarter-mile from the closest resident. County officials asked Dog Park Committee members for $20,000 to cover construction and offered that any additional expenses would be absorbed by the park’s fund, said Ventura County Park’s manager Ron Van Dyck.
The Dog Park Committee members have drawn plans for an 800-foot double-gated fence area with benches, extra dog-waste bags and a water fountain.
Two designated arenas will be divided to separate the large energetic dogs from those who are shyer and less active.
Nothing is expected from the Dog Park Committee members other than the $20,000 community contribution for initial fence construction costs, according to Van Dyck. The Ventura County Parks employees will take care of maintenance, he said.
With a $2 entrance fee during the week and $4 on the weekends, the Dog Park is expected to increase Soule Park’s revenue and pay for any increased maintenance costs, which aren’t expected to add up to much, said Van Dyck.
Soule Park’s maintenance crew already irrigates other areas of the park and will be able to water the park whether it is to irrigate the lawn or for dust control if some other material is used for ground cover. Park’s staff is still not sure what material to lay on the 800-foot area but they plan to use what ever is most cost effective, said Van Dyck.
Jim Ruch, a Boardman Road resident and neighbor, is skeptical of the benefits of a having a dog park at the Soule Park location.
“I would feel much more comfortable if a little more thought was put into it,” he said. Ruch wonders why the committee and county officials did not consider a location closer to town that people could walk their dogs to without getting into a car.
Soule Park is not close enough to any pedestrian sidewalks and is not walking distance from most of Ojai’s residential areas.
Still the Dog Park Committee members insist that many people who travel all the way to Ventura to take their dogs to a park would have a significantly shorter drive.
Ruch suggests the open space on the west side of San Antonio Creek in Libbey Park. People could walk their dogs down the bike trail to get there, he said.
But putting it in Soule Park is much more convenient for dog park committee members who only have to raise money before handing all other responsibilities over to Ventura County Parks.
Van Dyck said that a dog park at Soule Park had been in consideration since 2001 and was approved as a deferred maintenance item in 2006. Such a park had already been considered for the future though they were waiting to secure more funding. Since the Dog Park Committee offered to provide those funds, county parks was willing to speed up the process.
Ruch also said he noticed that Soule Park’s staff has not been able to keep up with current maintenance needs let alone take on a whole new project.
But Van Dyck said that the park has a routine maintenance crew, and that the new dog park is not expected to offset their routines.
The increased revenue from dog park visitor fees should help the county parks fund recover costs over time, he said.
Ruch also suggested the committee or park staff send a crew to take make sure that garbage is being cleaned up and that dog owners are keeping their furry companions on a leash in other areas of the park.
Dog Park Committee member Nancy Brough said that she had obtained more than 500 signatures in support of the park and expected it would have frequent visitors from the community. So far, the committee has raised almost $1,800 for the Ojai Valley Dog Park Fund at the Ojai Community Bank. Supporters can make donations at the bank or leave them in collections cans at veterinary offices and local feed stores.


Anonymous said...

A designated off-leash dog area at Soule Park is a fantastic idea, and I'm not even an owner of a canine. The "Regional" facilities (including Soule Park) owned by the Ventura County Parks Department are not supported by tax dollars out of the County's General Fund since the passage of State Proposition 13 way back in 1978. I'll predict that an off-leash dog area in the park will attract a high number of visitors that will be more than happy to pay the park entrance fee established by the County Board of Supervisors. The entrance fees do NOT go into the County's General Fund, but remain with the Parks Department. A check of the department's budget will show that the department needs to find more ways to be self-supporting. "Passive" recreation (family picnics, strolls in the park, etc.) do not generate much revenue. Most visitors want "active" recreational pursuits like softball games, hiking, bicycling, tennis, basketball, bird-watching, kayaking, fishing, etc. A dog park provides "active" recreation by allowing the interaction of dogs and their owners. GO FOR IT!!!

Anonymous said...

First, let's give credit where it is due. The most recent (2006-7) round of petition signatures in support of an off-leash dog park was accomplished by two Ojai Valley dog lovers, Vivian Sudhalter and Marge Emerson. Others on the committee have taken their work forward. Second, the people who most need this facility - senior citizens - may not be able to afford the fee. (No other dog parks in S. CA, to my knowledge, charge a fee.) Consider an annual membership instead, with reduced rates for seniors.

Nancy Brough said...

Thank goodness someone in the know straightened out who actually obtained the signatures on the dog park petition.
I was interviewed over the telephone for this article and specifically told the reporter I didn't know the names of the people who collected the signatures. Somehow it got twisted around and I was given the credit. I sent an email to the reporter to run errata regarding this and the two other errors in the story, to no avail.
I apologize for the misunderstanding and hope that future dog park articles will be more accurate.
Nancy Brough
Ojai Dog Park Fund

Anonymous said...

....and hope that future dog park articles will be more accurate.

Accuracy in print has never been the OVN's strongest suit, nor has it ever been terribly good about correcting mistakes.

In the current OVN, a writer by the name of Janine Sullivan castigates the Ojai City Council for coming up with the idea of the dog park, when in fact it was never a Council idea in spite of the fact that Mayor Carol Smith likes the notion. The City Council has no say whatsoever about what happens in the County-owned Soule Park.

The letter makes for a great little Straw Man, though, and maybe it will appeal to people who prefer their newspaper to be a little bit more a la Rupert Murdoch in tone.