Canine lovers propose off-leash dog park

Hendrix Park could be the site of a neighborhood dog park for Scripps Ranch. (photo by Laura Hogan)

Canine lovers propose off-leash dog park

Finding an open, legal and safe place to let your dog off-leash is a challenge in Scripps Ranch. The possibility of a dog park in Scripps Ranch continues to be a passion project for citizens of a committee called “Bark at the Park,” comprised of about 40 dog owners.

Many dog owners currently take their dogs to Meanley Park, 10368 Meanley Drive, where a blind eye is turned to taking the dogs off-leash. Many dog owners currently take their dogs to Meanly Park, but it is not an official City of San Diego off-leash dog park although it is labeled an open dog park on Google Maps. Meanley Park cannot be turned into an official dog park because of a water tank that sits only 18 inches below ground. The water tanks’ location prohibits the land from being designated open space and a fence cannot be built. This problem led local Scripps Ranch resident and dog owner Beca Tomcho to search for a dog park solution.

Tomcho said many dog owners in Scripps Ranch use unapproved land including fields meant for sports activity, which has led to conflict within the community.

“There are very responsible dog owners and some who are not. We are hoping to create a safe and legal off-leash space to take some of the conflict away,” Tomcho said.

While a dog park may relieve disputes over illegal, off-leash dogs, the proposed location has some residents concerned. One of the only available locations for the dog park is Hendrix Park, located on Aviary Drive, just south of Scripps Ranch Boulevard. Hendrix Park is lined with homes and apartments that abut a pond.

Tensions rose at a recent Scripps Ranch Recreation Advisory Group Meeting held on Jan. 10 where the renovation of Hendrix Park and the proposed dog park were points of contention. The meeting was not an official forum for the proposals, but served as an informal workshop for the project.

Landscape architect Leigh Kyle presented an overview for the process which would first include assessing the scope of the project, then planning and implementation. Kyle and her team have completed an initial survey of the park and have identified three areas that are potential spots for playground equipment, picnic tables or a dog park.

Tomcho presented some of her own ideas and made the case for a dog park in Scripps Ranch.

“We would like – and we feel there is a need – for a safe, legal dog area. A socialized and exercised dog is a better neighbor,” Tomcho said. “By having a fenced in area we do not impose on others’ children and people who may be afraid of dogs.”

Additional benefits, according to Tomcho, would include strengthening the community by giving both individuals and their dogs the opportunity to socialize with one another.

“I see the dog park as an opportunity to be reasonable and conscientious and be good neighbors. Ultimately, we all want to have healthy, happy pets, family and community,” Tomcho explained.

Many of the residents who live on and near Hendrix Park attended the meeting and shared their concerns over a dog park being built near the pond. In the 1970s, local residents combined funds to pay for the park’s establishment. The deed was handed over to the city for maintenance after its purchase from a developer. Local resident Chris Eshelman said she thinks it would be wonderful to restore the natural beauty of the park, but is not a proponent of the dog park.

“Many of us feel – as original neighbors – that it’s important to preserve Hendrix Pond as a nature park, which was its original intent when it was established,” Eshelman said.

Other concerns include the environmental impact of the dog waste on the pond and the local wildlife as well as noise and light disturbances to the neighborhood.

Funds have been secured for design renovations at Hendrix Park, the site of the proposed dog park. The subject is on the agenda of the Scripps Ranch Recreation Council for March 14, at 7 p.m. in the Scripps Ranch Library Community Room.

According to Marc Sorensen, chairman of the Rec Council, this meeting is to lay the groundwork for possible renovations at Hendrix Park. The park project will be an informational item on the agenda as the council will seek to gain further insights into the City’s plan. A representative from the City will attend, and Sorensen hopes they will answer some foundational questions.

“This will likely be a slow process where we need to have more information from the City before we move forward. What is the exact area we are looking at? How much money do we have to build it? And what are the acceptable uses for that area?” Sorensen said.

The March 14 meeting should provide further insight but may not provide the forum for debate or idea presentations for residents.

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