Alex Chaffe is a member of Dolores Park Works and Dolores Park Dogs. He believes what works for Dolores now is our commitment to “Share the Park” and any attempt to divide Dolores up would be its death. Here is his take on the state of the Dog Play Area debate.
“The park simply isn’t big enough for anyone to carve out their own fiefdom.”
Currently roughly 80% of the lawn space of Dolores Park is effectively off-leash. The area bordering 20th St., near the playground, is by social convention leash-only. This system works surprisingly well! Most conflicts I’ve seen have been between two dog owners; when a dog has bothered a human, the owner has been polite and got the dog out of there and the conflict was resolved amicably.
Last week about a dozen of us met with Steve Cancian, architect, facilitator for the Dolores Park Community planning process at the Dog Subcommittee meeting. We had a good roundtable discussion, and I got to make some points I hadn’t otherwise been hearing about the dog areas. My argument is “bigger is better.“ The dogs can have more exercise, less conflict between dogs and other park users, and less wear and tear on the park. Look, let’s be practical, if someone drops a party or a show in the middle of one area, we all have a place to move.
This does not seem to be the majority opinion of the Dog Subcommittee. I’m honestly concerned about the path we’ve chosen and I hope we can find a better way to resolve this so the park works for everyone. They argued on behalf of several groups of people who were not represented there — and since they weren’t there, we couldn’t ask them what they think about those issues, and what they really desired. Here’s what these straw men said:
Parents Of Children Who Play In The Playground, represented as wanting barriers between the playground and the dog
area, possibly continuing across the entire field. Contradictory, the plans for the playground specifically excluded fences or barriers, except for some boulders uphill of the playground.
People Who Don’t Use The Park Because They’re Uncomfortable Around Dogs, represented as wanting to lay claim to the entire downhill half of the South Field, i.e. between the playground and Dolores Ave, and between the 14′ north-south thruway/path and Dolores. It was not explained why these people don’t now use the far SE and SW picnic area (including but not limited to the Fruit Shelf) where by social convention dogs are currently nearly always leashed.
People Who Want to Use The North Field As A Permitted Soccer Practice Space, represented as being against mixed use, where off-leash dogs can use the field at some times of day, but back off when there’s an activity. We are told they require a 30′ buffer between the field and any off-leash dog area. Also represented as believing dogs are destructive to the field, but other mixed uses are not (e.g. BBQs, volleyball net poles, shade tents, croquet wickets, zombie flashmobs.
I could go on, but in short, there is dialogue missing between actual representatives of the other constituencies and actual dog
owners. In general I’m pleased with the community outreach process; it’s worked well for cases where there’s general agreement. But it seems to not be working in cases where there’s honest conflict that needs to be resolved. We need to be confronted by our accusers, please! And hear what they really say.