Editorial: SLO County needs more dog parks

It would be an exaggeration to say that the popular Arroyo Grande dog park is being loved to death, but the grass where the big dogs romp certainly is. The city may replace the bedraggled grass with wood chips — the City Council has tentatively approved the idea — but a neighboring resident is objecting that it could harm air quality.

He’s barking up the wrong tree, as far as we’re concerned.

A number of dog parks across the country, including at least one in SLO County, already use wood chips. They’re also commonly used in parks, playgrounds and as a landscaping medium in residential gardens, and we could find no air quality complaints associated with their use.

Certainly, there are other pros and cons to using wood chips in dog parks. Based on a Google search, we found that users have complained that dogs eat the wood chips; the material can be rough on paws; it can be hard to spot poop on the chips; and they can be a breeding ground for fleas. On the plus side, they don’t require water, they’re easier to maintain than grass, and according to some users, they smell nice.

We believe the wood chips are worth a try, at least as a short-term fix.

There is, however, an important longer-term solution.

There would be less wear-and-tear on the Arroyo Grande park — indeed, on all existing parks — if more communities stepped up and provided facilities.

Countywide, there are eight officially sanctioned dog parks, plus one beach where canines are allowed to run free. The Five Cities Dog Park Association, which maintains the Arroyo Grande dog park, is working to establish another one in Shell Beach. That’s great news, but for an area the size of San Luis Obispo County, we need more parks. At the very least, each of our incorporated cities and larger towns should have one. After all, if we can require new subdivisions to provide parks and playgrounds, why not dog parks?

Some local agencies, though, have been reluctant to get on board with that idea. That’s unfortunate. Dog parks provide pets and people with opportunities to exercise and socialize, and that’s vital to physical and mental health.

The parks do require maintenance and monitoring, but nonprofit organizations have done an excellent job of providing volunteer staff so that local governments aren’t unduly burdened.

The demand for dog parks isn’t going away. We strongly urge local jurisdictions to do their part by stepping up to accommodate them.