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Pooches reunite with reopening of popular park

Last August, enthusiastic dog owners returned to Claremont’s beloved Pooch Park in droves after a 6-week closure for what many deemed “much-needed updates” to the popular facilities.  

“It’s like a family reunion,” one exclaimed of the return of the close-knit community and their gathering space.

Now a year after the park’s reopening, the Pooch Park family prepares to gather with as much fervor as the first day of the park’s reopening, but with a renewed purpose. Friends of the Claremont Pooch Park, a volunteer group enlisted to help care for the park, will host a preliminary community informational meeting at Blaisdell Community Center on Monday to propose additional fixes to the pooch-designated area located within College Park, such as stadium lighting. Park users are eager to fix possible liability issues and bring the pooch park area up to the standard of Claremont’s other prized community spaces.

“This is the most used park, but it’s not maintained to the level of other parks in town,” said Debi Woolery, vice president of the Friends of the Pooch Park. “We want to be able to continue to use our park to the max.”

Among concerns are safety issues associated with the darkness that falls by the time of the park closing, currently listed as 9 p.m. Eileen Prendergast, who can often be spotted walking the track while her German/Australian Shepherd mix Reilly roams, was particularly concerned because she has used the walking trail, walking stick in hand, to rehabilitate after breaking her femur.

“I’m not as fleet-of-foot as the others,” she said, fearing a fall over a hole or mound in the dark.

Park-users also worry about an easement toward the back of the park that has been known to be used as a sleeping spot for the homeless, a nook for vandalism or even, at one point, a den for coyotes.

“Having lights on until at least 9 p.m. will help alleviate these concerns,” Ms. Woolery said.

The lights the Friends would like to propose for the park would be similar to those currently found at Padua Park, according to Ms. Woolery. Unlike typical stadium lighting, these lights will be smaller and have rounded tops to keep from overly interfering with neighboring residences.

The Friends approached the city with the idea, which recommended talking with neighbors.

“It sounds to me like they are taking the right steps,” said City Manager Tony Ramos.

With worsening conditions come needed repairs

Proposed new additions to the park such as lights and other issues of general maintenance have been brought to the attention of the city, which has been helpful when issues are brought to their attention, according to Ms. Prendergast and others.

However, as months have passed, satisfaction has waned for some who claim bad conditions at the park have returned, and in some cases worsened.

“It’s the most used park in Claremont and the most abused,” said park user Terry Wilson. “They are reseeding [the grass] at Padua, making all of these other parks beautiful and we are so grateful to have the Pooch Park, but why not keep it right? Especially after spending the money.”

Last summer, the city temporarily closed the park to repair drinking fountains, provide fresh coats of paint, replace dog waste receptacles and add additional granite to the park’s walking trail, which wraps around the perimeter of the gated space. Fresh grass was also added to the previously patchy lawns. Though the exact cost of the renovations was requested, a response could not be provided as of press time. The month-long renovations marked the first time the park had received such extensive renovations since its opening in 2006.

Chief among Ms. Wilson’s concerns is the grass, which she says has returned to its patchy state and worsened after the water was shut off 6 weeks ago. During that time, park users noted that in addition to grass, a couple of the park’s trees died. They were removed and have yet to be replaced.

Another issue is the loose dirt. “It’s a dust bowl,” said Ms. Wilson, who says the city has not responded to her requests and those of numerous others. “When the dogs play, they kick up the dirt and then start crashing into other dogs and people.”

The Friends, with the help of Claremont staff, are getting to the bottom of these problems, according to Linda Washington, who serves as the group’s liaison with the city. Plans are in place to plant new trees in the fall, eliminate bug problems along the back wall, correct the water issue and add sealer to the track’s loose dirt, she says.

“All of these things are being addressed and the city is working very closely with me,” said Ms. Washington, who added that the Friends’ bylaws have designated that the group’s liaison will be the city’s contact on problems with the park. “We’ve been on the ball with the city on these issues.”

Mr. Ramos agreed with Ms. Washington’s statements, adding that $55,000 has been designated in the city’s budget to continue to improve park conditions. Among proposed uses for the money is alleviating the park’s irrigation problems, which have contributed to the continual drying out of the grass.

“We want to reconstruct some swells, add catch basins and install some more sod,” said Mr. Ramos of plans to fix the problem. “We’ve also instructed our contractor to renovate turf areas that need attention.”

Watering times have been adjusted to cater to the dry areas of the park while minimizing the puddle problems. The city’s contractor, CLS, has also been instructed to perform irrigation checks on a biweekly basis and broken valves have been replaced.

“As these issues are brought to our attention, we are working with the Friends to work through them,” Mr. Ramos said. “They have been great to work with and we really appreciate all their efforts.”

In the early evening sun Thursday, Pooch Park users echoed these sentiments, eager to continue working toward the same goal—maintaining their home away from home.  

“The city is very attentive to our needs,” said Marcella Flores of Pomona. “There’s no place like this [park] in this area that I’d rather go.”

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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