Thursday, November 15 , 2018, 12:40 am | Fair 47º


Santa Barbara Council Approves Off-Leash Dog Facility at MacKenzie Park

Construction starts in November for the city's first enclosed, off-leash dog area

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An eastern area of Santa Barbara’s MacKenzie Park will become an off-leash dog area, as the City Council approved construction funds Tuesday.  (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Soon, Pony Baseball players won't be the only young guys and gals running around at MacKenzie Park in Santa Barbara.

They'll have company in the form of Rufus, Rex and Butch, scampering around on four legs, without a leash. 

The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday voted 6-0, with Mayor Cathy Murillo absent, to build fenced, off-leash dog areas at the park, at 3200 State St. 

The project, which will cost $693,682, includes two separate fenced enclosures to divide large dogs from small or special needs dogs, drinking water fountains for the dogs, trash cans, seating areas and new safety lighting for pedestrians.

There will be a new 6-foot-tall concrete wall and landscaping along the property line to separate the park from a nearby hotel. The dog area will be located on the eastern end of the park, facing Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and State Street. 

"It is the culmination of about 4 1/2 years of developing a new off-leash dog facility," said George Thompson, capital projects supervisor for the city, who heaped praise on the facility during the council meeting. 

"You can take your dogs off the leash and they can play with other dogs," Thompson said. "Exercised dogs are often well-behaved dogs."

Humans benefit, also. The project will include a new entry plaza from State Street, and accessible pathways connecting the parking lot to the playground, MacKenzie Center, the new off-leash dog area, baseball fields, and the restrooms.

Plus, "You get to meet people you don’t necessarily know in the neighborhood," Thompson said. 

The city studied several areas, including Dwight Murphy Field, Ortega Park, Sheffield Open Space and Plaza Vera Cruz, but settled on MacKenzie Park for the facility.

"We don’t have an enclosed off-leash dog area," Thompson said. "This really is a different type of off-leash dog facility."

The city decided to install the concrete fence after members of the community at a meeting in 2016 said they had concerns about increased noise from dogs, periodic noise from youth baseball, and the music from the Mercado Del Norte during the annual Old Spanish Days celebration.

Dog owners have pushed the city for decades for more off-leash dog space. The Douglas Family Preserve on the Mesa is home to a steady parade of dogs prancing around on the blufftops. Elings Park offers off-leash facilities, but for an annual cost. The city is looking at MacKenzie as a pilot project.

"There is going to be a lot of use at the park," Thompson said.

Construction is set to start on Nov. 26.

"I am very excited about this project," Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon said Tuesday.

"It is going to bring a lot of benefit to a lot of residents," Councilman Jason Dominguez said.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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