Dog Parks Offer Freedom to Frolic

Kevin Sauls
By Kevin Sauls June 15, 2014 19:51

Dog parks are places where canines can cut loose, shed their leashes and romp. Such parks exist on an official basis in Tuolumne and Amador counties and unofficially in Calaveras County. Another park is west of Tuolumne County in Oakdale.

The bona fide parks are fenced so unleashed dogs cannot escape. They include water for both dogs and owners, and doggie waste cleanup stations.

A look at these popular places:

Sonora: The Sunrise Rotary Club built the Sonora park on county land off Covey Circle and across from the Quail Hollow Apartments. It opened in the spring of 2013 and features two spacious paddocks, one for small dogs and another for “all dogs,” as a sign says. There is disabled access at the entrance, and the larger paddock includes a rock-climbing area for kids.

Trees shade the paddock edges, and a community garden blooms near the double-gated entrance. “It’s nicely done,” says Mary Barrett, president of the Sierra-Tuolumne Kennel Club.

“We get a lot of compliments on it,” says Del Hodges, treasurer of the Sonora Sunrise club.

The idea for the park came from club member Jim Cherry as part of a suicide prevention effort.

“We were looking for a gathering place, where people could come together and share each other’s time … the dog park just kind of evolved,” Hodges says, adding that it has since hosted birthday parties, puppy reunions and other canine celebrations.

One sunny Saturday morning, park patrons included nearby residents Brittney Leis and Sharon Benincasa and their small dogs, a shih tzu called Reggie and a Maltese mix named Lily.

“I come every day … it’s nice and close to home,” Leis says. “I like how they have it divided and how they keep it nice and neat.”

And Reggie? “It’s nice to have him socialize,” Leis says. “This is the first time I’ve seen him run with other dogs.”

Owners get to socialize, too. “I meet a lot of different people here,” Benincasa says.

Groveland: Conceived in 2005 and opened in 2010, the Groveland Dog Park offers paddocks for large and small dogs on 1.5 acres of Groveland Community Services District (GCSD) land at 19172 Ferretti Rd., next to the Evangelical Free Church and the Leon Rose baseball and softball field.

Annual membership fees of $25 for two dogs and $10 for each additional pet are used solely for park support, with maintenance by the all-volunteer Friends of the Groveland Dog Park. Membership forms are available at the GCSD office, 18966 Ferretti Rd.

“People love it,” says Groveland resident Jim Knudson, who broached the idea for the park after he and his wife moved to the south county from Illinois, where the couple’s canines had enjoyed a 10-acre run. “We have a lot of dog owners and dog lovers up here in Groveland and Pine Mountain Lake.”

Jackson: This run opened last year as part of Jackson’s Kennedy Tailing Wheels Park, about a mile north of town on Jackson Gate Road. It’s small, about 150-by-50 feet, but has been a big hit with dog owners.

“It’s a demand we had, and it seems pretty popular,” says Mike Daly, Jackson’s city manager. “We’ll see how it’s accepted, but it’s off to a good start.”

The city maintains the park, which has water, cleanup stations, shade trees, a picnic area and a double-gate entry. Mining artifacts add to the Gold Country ambience.

Avery: The track and playing field at Avery Middle School is the site of the Calaveras dog park.

“It’s true, it’s an unofficial dog park,” says the school’s principal, Jared Hungerford. “A lot of dog owners come here, and that’s fine – we’re a community-funded school district, and our facilities are open to the public after school hours.”

The field usually becomes available at about 3:30 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends, Hungerford says, unless school athletic events are scheduled. The school is at 4545 Moran Rd. in Avery, a right turn off eastbound Highway 4 about eight miles northeast of Murphys.

The park is enclosed on three sides, but Hungerford warns that unleashed dogs could escape through the school grounds and “into the wilderness.”

The school provides cleanup bags and, as at all parks, owners are expected to tidy up after their dogs.

“As long as we can all be respectful of one another and share the space, we’re happy to have the dog owners,” Hungerford says. “They should just have a leash and be prepared to leash their dogs if non-dog owners are there.”

Oakdale: To reach the city’s dog park, drive west on Highway 108 2.4 miles past the downtown Oakdale stoplight, then turn left on Crane Road to Greger Street. The run covers about two acres and has paddocks for large and small dogs.

“It has been popular,” says a staffer at Oakdale Public Works. “People from the county and the city like to come to our park because it’s always clean and green.”

Built in 2009, the park is maintained by city contract, with water provided for dogs and humans and a cleanup station for canines. The park is closed for a time each spring and fall to allow the property to rejuvenate.

 Copyright © 2014 Friends and Neighbors Magazine

Kevin Sauls
By Kevin Sauls June 15, 2014 19:51
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