Support grows for renovation at Castro dog park

  • by Sari Staver
  • Wednesday May 10, 2023
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A preliminary design showed lots of play areas for dogs as well as shade trees and a water source. Illustration: Courtesy TS Studio, SF Rec and Park
A preliminary design showed lots of play areas for dogs as well as shade trees and a water source. Illustration: Courtesy TS Studio, SF Rec and Park

Community support is gaining steam for proposed renovations at the Eureka Valley Dog Play Area.

The park, located at 100 Collingwood Street adjacent to the Eureka Valley Recreation Center, is one of 35 dog parks in San Francisco, according to the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, which operates them.

Members of the Eureka Valley Dog Owners Group, a nonprofit offshoot of the Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association, has been convening a series of meetings to discuss renovations to the dog play area. At the first meeting in March, as the Bay Area Reporter previously reported, many attendees commented on the stench as a major issue to be addressed.

Other complaints include the lack of separate space for small dogs, whose owners often worry that their pooches will be injured by much larger dogs; safety and security; access for disabled people; shade protection; improved plantings and foliage; and clean, easily accessed water.

While still in the planning stages, drawings presented by the Eureka Valley Dog Owners Group have brought hope for change. The architectural renderings were done by J. Lee Stickles, a landscape architect whose firm TS Studio has offered volunteer help to get the proposal off the ground.

Community enthusiasm was apparent when over 60 people, mostly local dog owners and neighbors, met for the second community meeting April 25 at the park clubhouse to offer input on the project.

When new drawings of proposed models for park improvements were unveiled, attendees seemed pleased. Stephanie Kastner, who lives around the corner but doesn't bring her two terriers to the park, said, "Wow! Looks great. I'm impressed." Kastner, a professional fundraiser, said she was interested in learning about volunteer opportunities for the project.

One of the preliminary designs shows a grassy area for all dogs and another area for small dogs. There's a native grassy area with dog safe edible grass and boulders with dog safe plantings. There is a water source, accessible security gate, and shade trees in the design.

The second preliminary design shows dog play areas, fixed seating with lighting, stabilized granite surfacing, micro-clover with eco-lawn mix or non-toxic Astroturf, water source, accessible security gate, edible grasses, and canopy trees.

Some skeptics doubt whether EVDOG will actually be able to put together the money needed, estimated to be up to $1 million. The funds would probably be a combination of private fundraising and grants.

One dog owner, who has been coming to the park with a dog twice a day for several decades but asked that her name not be used, told the B.A.R. she has "heard this all before" and doubts that the current group will succeed.

"Who are these people?" she asked. "They don't use this park so how do they know what we need?" She added that similar proposals have been made over the years, but all fizzled for lack of funding.

Another anonymous dog owner, who attended the recent meeting, expressed her displeasure by placing several Post-it notes on the proposed drawings, urging others to "boycott" the proposed changes. One of the notes nixed the idea of artificial turf.

Several people complained that a renovation would mean the park would have to close as long as four to 12 months. But M Rocket, a volunteer for EVDOG, pointed out that one possibility would be to do construction in phases, which would be more expensive but would enable parts of the park to remain open during the build out.

The proposals unveiled at the meeting were suggestions of "what is possible," said Rocket, a lesbian who founded Bay Woof in 2007. Rocket said her organization isn't involved with EVDOG but she helps the group with community outreach. The Bay Woof Foundation, a nonprofit, publishes a free monthly emagazine and a directory of local dog parks.

Support for community-funded projects such as this came from Rec and Park, which cited similar projects that have been done at other dog parks in the city.

Commenting on the role of community fundraising to improve San Francisco's parks, Tamara Barak Aparton, director of communications and public affairs at Rec and Park, stated in an email to the B.A.R., "Many of the city's great public spaces are the result of a community vision brought to life through philanthropy."

"Neighbors raised about $27 million for Francisco Park, which opened a year ago. In the case of India Basin Waterfront Park, fundraising is a key part of transforming a formerly dilapidated shoreline in the Bayview into a vibrant public space that reflects the needs and values of local residents," Aparton wrote. "We regularly work with nonprofits and community groups to renovate parks and playgrounds all over San Francisco, in every neighborhood, from Hilltop Park in the Bayview to playgrounds all over the city through the LetsPlaySF! initiative."

Aparton cited two comparable projects to the dog play area with similar fundraising goals. One is the children's playground in Sue Bierman Park, which opened in 2013 "thanks to neighborhood groups raising about $1 million in private funding to design and build it," she wrote.

"They started off with zero public funds. They also applied for and were awarded a $250,000 Community Opportunity Fund grant, she wrote. "Another is the Presidio Heights playground renovation; a neighborhood group raised about $1 million in private funding to renovate the playground, which reopened in 2010."

Rocket urged neighborhood residents and dog owners to offer their feedback and ideas by filling out the park user survey that's also accessible through EVDOG's website. In a Facebook post, Rocket wrote, "The more people who participate, the better and stronger the dog community becomes in the process of working together."

For more about the proposals, visit the EVDOG website or its Facebook page, which has the same name.

The third and last community meeting in this series will be held on Wednesday, May 24, at 6 p.m. at the Eureka Valley Rec Room, 100 Collingwood Street.

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