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Dog group sniffs out new site for park

tstrickland@thetribunenews.com

A group seeking to establish a dog park for pups to play in Paso Robles is now eyeing a new location after one neighborhood in the fall petitioned against a proposal for an off-leash area near the Salinas River.

Parks-4-Pups announced last week they hope to open the park on Scott Street.

In October, the City Council voted unanimously to reserve land at Larry Moore Park on Paso Robles’ eastside for Riverbank Dog Park. Opposition arose two days later.

Several area residents took a unified stance against the dog park by submitting a petition to the city and placing protest signs in their front yards.

At the time, some Riverbank Lane residents said they worried about the potential for increased parking on what they described as a quiet cul-de-sac, as well as noise and other issues.

“We just want a place for dogs,” Parks-4-Pups Vice President Larry Miller said, “not a fight with neighbors.”

So, the group that’s backed by numerous volunteers who plan to build and maintain the park, continued to look for other sites.

Parks-4-Pups found its latest site just east of the city’s senior center on Scott Street in the Oak Creek Park area.

Other lots that were considered include a triangular lot off Creston Road that was ruled out because of its small size, and open space off Kleck Road in the Montebello Oaks neighborhood that required an expensive access road.

The San Luis Obispo Parks, Open Space & Trails Foundation hopes to make the Paso Robles park its ninth dog park in the county. It’s modeled after the Vineyard Dog Park in Templeton, which attracts Paso Robles residents.

Parks-4-Pups is the project committee spearheading the proposal through the foundation.

If the city Planning Commission approves the use permit for the new site, the project would be the first designated dog park in Paso Robles — a town that currently doesn’t allow dogs in its parks.

The commission meeting could happen as soon as the fall, Miller said. If all goes well, the park could be open by the end of the year or early next year.

The city didn’t pose Scott Street as an original option because it’s master-planned for tennis courts. But Parks-4-Pups is willing to use it in the interim, Miller said, proposing a 10-year lease.

On Thursday, the neighborhood was alive with mid-morning activity. Residents were gardening, chatting in front yards and walking dogs.

“We think it would be great,” resident and dog owner Mikayla Anderson said from her home on Scott Street. “If you make it illegal to have dogs in parks, then you need a dog park. It just makes sense.”

Her house is directly across from the proposed site, with clear views from the living room. But Anderson said she’d welcome a change to the empty 1.25-acre lot currently covered in dry grass.

“In retrospect, we feel like we have the best possible site now,” Miller said.

“We did do outreach after our experience with Riverbank, and we went to every home in the vicinity,” he added. “And the support was unbelievable.

Fifty-nine of the 65 homes he and volunteers visited signed a document supporting the dog park.

Those who didn’t sign were concerned with parking and park maintenance, he said. Miller hopes continued outreach could quell those concerns.

But worries are still high for Margaret and Heinz Winslow on Semillon Lane near Vineyard Dog Park in Templeton, also run by the group.

They say the dog park is a constant problem, as sounds and smells often encroach on their quiet time.

“The things we used to enjoy, like sitting out on our front porch, the noise is so disturbing we just don’t do those things anymore,” Margaret Winslow said.

The Winslows say they love dogs, but would like to see more oversight on dog park placement.

“We personally don’t blame the dogs,” Margaret Winslow said. “We blame the people because they made the poor decision to put a dog park near homes.”

Among the problems the couple say they’ve seen is increased traffic, noise and people illegally letting their dogs off leash in their neighborhood.

But Miller said Vineyard has its supporters as well as its critics.

He says he has a good feeling about support for the Scott Street location.

Parks-4-Pups plans to pay for all costs associated with the park, ensuring that it is operated at no expense to taxpayers. The fenced park would feature wood chip ground cover and picnic benches.

A finance plan is to be presented at the commission meeting showing secured funding for initial construction costs that Miller declined to estimate Thursday, as well as two years of maintenance.

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