The dream of a dog park in Carpinteria is alive, and the Carpinteria City Council meeting this week showed that the community-requested idea is picking up steam.
The council received a dog park feasibility study on Monday night, and considered initiating various actions to establish one or more off-leash dog parks.
The council unanimously voted to have city staff gather more information and design elements about potential shared-use locations at Monte Vista Park and El Carro Park, as well as a dedicated space for pups along Calle Lagunitas and Dump Road.
The vote also included exploring whether a dog park is “feasible” at Carpinteria State Beach.
More than 600 licensed canines reside in Carpinteria, according to the city’s animal control services.
City staff received a request by a group of citizens who want public off-leash dog parks in Carpinteria.
The group has formed as the so-called Carpinteria Dog Owners Group (C-Dog), a nonprofit encouraging “the establishment of dog parks and open off-leash areas to provide safe and secure environments where owners may exercise and train their dogs off-leash.”
There are several dog parks in the area around Carpinteria, including off-leash spaces such as Toro Canyon Park, the Douglas Family Preserve and Arroyo Burro Beach Park.
Dog parks are increasingly popular, said Matt Roberts, Carpinteria’s director of Parks and Recreation.
“There’s a tremendous number of dog park advocates across this country,” Roberts said.
A handful of these supporters took to the podium at the meeting.
Cynthia Burt, a C-Dog board member, said the group wants to partner with the city in developing a dog park.
“We are excited about fundraising for this,” Burt said. “We are about educating the community about picking up after their dog… We really strive to make these shared-use spaces safe for dogs and for children.”
C-Dog board member Erin Milne said the group is “here to help,” and is not advocating for dogs running amok through the parks.
“We want to do this right in terms of safety,” Milne said. “We want to be good stewards of the land and good neighbors.”
Pursuing a dedicated dog park on a nearly 3-acre site at 6380 Via Real in the eastern part of Carpinteria — adjacent to the Lagunitas residential development and a vacant commercial office site — is “almost ideal” because of the large size and minimal “sensitive adjacent uses,” Roberts said.
A proposed dog park at the Lagunitas vacant area drew opposition from residents during the public comment period.
A resident living nearby Calle Lagunitas and Via Real disagreed with the city staff report saying that Lagunitas “is isolated from sensitive neighboring uses.”
Linda Lisiecki said the area is about “100 or so feet from houses,” mentioning that some homeowners are already frustrated with dogs barking in the neighborhood.
She didn’t express support or opposition of dog parks, but raised concerns about people using the restrooms at the sites and the congested parking situations nearby Lagunitas.
Verna Gindoff, a resident of Lagunitas, said there could be issues with noise and potential odors.
A coyote also frequents the Lagunitas area, she said.
“I love dogs, and I do think we need a dog park,” Gindoff said. “I don’t like the idea of it being so close to our community when we already have an open area that is for the residents, where we have a lot of dogs.”
Gindoff’s husband, Bryan, asked the council to consider different location options, and pointed out that the Lagunitas area has a children’s park.
He likes having a dog park at the 2.5-acre Dump Road site that is privately owned by Chevron.
Dump Road is adjacent to Carpinteria Avenue and Dump Road on the north and south, multi-family development to the northwest, a landscape buffer area to the west/southwest and undeveloped private land to the south.
“I’m all for dog parks,” he said. “I’m not anti-dog park… but I think you have better locations in the city than something that is literally in our backyards.”
Marla Daily, a Carpinteria resident living on Dorrance Way, said she’s “a dog owner, a dog lover and a dog rescuer.”
She believes Carpinteria needs both dedicated public space for pets and shared-use dog parks.
“We have enough land in this city, enough interest (and) enough people with dogs to warrant that,” Daily said, adding that the Dump Road location is the “single, most stellar parcel for a dog park.”
Councilman Roy Lee supported a fenced-in dog park.
“The liability and risk to injury and death is definitely a factor,” Lee said.
Councilman Fred Shaw agreed with Lee.
“I’m always concerned about dogs off-leash. Maybe that’s because as a walking mail carrier, I probably encountered thousands in my travels,” Shaw said. “All dogs bite, so I think fencing is important.”
Shaw supports the possibility of a shared-use dog park at El Carro Park, and was concerned about Memorial Park and Monte Vista Park because they have nearby barbecue facilities.
He likes the idea of exploring a dedicated dog park at Dump Road.
The city staff report mentions potential conflicts between dog park users and organized sport users, or dog park users and children playing or people picnicking.
Potential mitigation ideas include segregating uses by time and/or location, physical barriers and public education/noticing in the park to discourage mixing off-leash dogs and sports activities and/or the playground and picnic areas.
Monte Vista Park is in the eastern part of the city, and it does not have sports fields or courts, but sports teams use the grass field for games and practice.
El Carro Park is the largest and most intensively used Carpinteria park for organized sports such as the American Youth Soccer Organization, the Carpinteria Valley Little league, and other sports groups.
Councilman Gregg Carty said having a canine in a child’s life is a “great thing.”
“I heard that we should choose our kids over our dog park,” Carty said after the public comment period. “We encourage our kids to play sports, but not all of the kids do. A lot of times their sport is playing with their dog.
“The dog is their best friend,” he continued.
Either a shared-use park and/or a dedicated dog park will require amendments to the Carpinteria municipal code to accommodate off-leash dogs on public property, and then the council’s consideration.
A financial analysis will be prepared, and the study will include implementation and operational costs.