The Elm Street Dog Park will remain open — although its future is uncertain unless a volunteer group can be found to replace the Five Cities Dog Park Association, which up until last month managed the off-leash dog park.
On Tuesday, the Arroyo Grande City Council voted 4-1 with Councilwoman Barbara Harmon dissenting, for the city to assume management of the park for six months or until a new volunteer group is formed.
"Arroyo Grande is the city of volunteers," Mayor Pro Tem Kristen Barneich said. "I can't believe that there is not someone out there who would be willing to take this on."
The council also asked that a status report on the park be presented in three months, and for the city Parks and Recreation Commission to look into long-term plans for the dog park in the event a replacement group can’t be found.
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If a new group is not formed, the park could close at the end of six months.
In the meantime, the city will pay $7,800 to contract for basic maintenance of the park, such as emptying trash cans and fixing safety issues.
Harmon voted against the plan, citing liability concerns if someone were to be injured or become sick because the city could only perform minimal maintenance in the park.
The issue came before the City Council after Five Cities Dog Park Association, which had managed the park since it opened in 2009, announced on Jan. 29 that it would no longer oversee the park. The association cited “lack of support” from the city and difficulties with several park users as the reason for stepping away.
Association board members said in a previous Tribune report that the city Recreation Services Department supported the association’s plan to renovate the dog park throughout its planning process last year, but withdrew that support in January once a group of park users protested the changes — even though the plans had been unanimously approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission a month earlier.
The concerns were brought to the City Council on Jan. 13, which directed staff to work with the association to address questions it had regarding the renovations, and then bring the plans before the Parks and Recreation Commission once again.
City staff asked the association to create a new plan and raise $30,000 in additional funds to address the users’ concerns, which the board declined to do.
Soon after, the association announced it was cutting ties with the city of Arroyo Grande to make way for another group to manage the dog park.
"We are opening up the opportunity for another group of community-minded volunteers to create a relationship with the city and assume the responsibility of keeping the dog park open," association president Emma Valdivieso wrote in the group's letter to the council terminating its relationship with the city.
At the meeting Tuesday night, several speakers volunteered to help with the dog park, though none offered to head a new volunteer group.
Including the Elm Street Dog Park, there are nine off-leash dog parks in the county. The Nipomo Dog Park at the Nipomo Regional Park is the only other dog park in South County.