A new gate in Joaquin Miller Park could mean more play time for area dogs and their owners
on October 6, 2011
For roughly 320 days of the year, a 1.5-acre space in Joaquin Miller Park is used as a dog park. From sun up to sun down, dogs of all sizes and breeds rule the park, running around off-leash, catching balls, and making new friends. In fact, there’s even a separate gated off area for small dogs called Gizmoland. For the remaining days of the year, the space is a parking lot for Woodminster Theater, which is only used for performances on some late summer weekends.
“It’s sort of the most unusual time-sharing arrangement we know of in any part of the country,” said Emily Rosenberg, cofounder of ODOG (the Oakland Dog Owners Group), an advocacy group that wants to create more dog parks and off-leash spaces in Oakland, “but it’s worked extremely well.”
But although the arrangement has worked flawlessly for the last five years, there is one problem: the gate.
The gate currently used to delineate the dog park, which is about 4 feet tall, is cumbersome and difficult to move, said Rosenberg. For the majority of the year it does not pose a problem, but from July to October, when there are weekend performances and concerts at the theater, the gates must be cleared away so that the parking lot can be used. This often takes a lot of time and can shorten the number of hours—and even days—that the park is open to dogs and owners if the Public Works Department staffers are too busy to move the gate right away, or are off duty on the weekends.
“The gate is heavy and difficult to move,” said Martin Mataresse, the park land resources supervisor for the Oakland Parks and Recreation department and also one of the people in charge of moving the park gates. “Since the shows run on weekends, sometimes starting as early in the week as Thursday, it’s easier to leave the gates where they are, rather than moving them back and forth so that they can be a dog park one day and a parking lot the next,” he said.
The redwood chips that litter the dog park/parking lot are another impediment to moving the gates, said Harriet Schlader, the managing director for Westminster Theater. “The gate is too heavy and when the redwood chips pile under it, moving it is impossible for even a very strong person,” said Schlader.
In an effort to extend the number of days that dog owners and their canine friends can enjoy the park in the late summer months, ODOG has started a fundraiser to replace the current gate with one that has wheels. The rolling gates would extend the number of hours that the dog park can remain open during the summer months by speeding up the process of moving the gates in and out of place to create the parking lot before and after each performance, Rosenberg said.
“With wheeled gates, we’d have a system that would allow dog owners to move the gates themselves and clear up the staff’s schedule of one less task to do before the weekend starts, ” said Rosenberg.
In mid-August, ODOG started fundraising to collect money for the $7,500 new gate that the Public Works Department has agreed to put in once the sum has been reached. Through hosting bake sales, selling tickets for door prize raffles, and throwing a fundraising party at the park, the group has managed to raise $5,000 so far.
“We still need another $2,500, but it’s doable,” Rosenberg said.
The gate system, Mataresse said, would be run by volunteers who sign up with the City of Oakland Adopt-a-Park Program, which would stipulate directions and hours for when to close and open the gates according to the summer theater performance schedule.
Matarasse believes that a gate with wheels would be a good addition to the park. “If I had volunteers that were committed to monitoring the park and easier gates to move, then they could have more use of the grounds of the dog park even up to the afternoon of the show,” he said.
Schlader also agrees that a rolling gate would help alleviate the problem, but she is still not supportive of sharing the theater’s parking lot space with the dog park. “Do they need a new gate? Yes. Should the [dog] parks be in parking lots? No,” she said. “There are plenty of areas in Joaquin Miller Park which would be more appropriate.”
But Rosenberg says that the dog park has been a good neighbor to the theater. “In the five years that it’s been operational,” she said, “there’s never been a complaint about odor or people not doing what they’re supposed to do to keep it nice.”
Rosenberg said ODOG will continue to raise funds until the group’s goal of $7,500 is met—a sum she thinks can be raised by the end of this year. “Joaquin Miller Dog Park is a special park, but like all the Oakland dog parks, so far it’s just minimal amenities,” she said. “Having a new gate put in that is easier to move will make the park even better.”
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