Citizens champion dog park for Clovis

A pair of Clovis residents voiced the need for a dog park in Clovis at the Feb. 5 city council meeting. Neighboring city Fresno has the seven dog parks, with five additional parks slated to be built over the next five years, while Clovis still has none. (Photo: Pixabay)

A group of Clovis citizens are adamant about the city’s need for a dog park.

As a pedestrian-friendly city with gorgeous trails and recreational parks complete with play structures, it’s hard to believe Clovis has yet to establish a park for residents and their canines to enjoy. Meanwhile neighboring Fresno has seven parks—six of which are maintained by the city while the seventh, James Thornton Dog Park, is privately operated by Valley Animal Center. It’s long been noted in the city’s own Parks Master Plan that there is a need for a dog park, but with other more pressing needs to be met the dog park issue has been put on the backburner.

At a Feb. 5 council meeting, a few vocal citizens made it known that the community wants to bring the issue off that backburner and to the front of the line.

Resident Michelle Jenkins, one of the leaders of the group advocating for the dog park, said she and other volunteers went door to door and set up shop outside of local pet stores over the last several years to gain 1,231 resident signatures on a petition in favor of a Clovis dog park.

Such a park, Jenkins explained, would be very beneficial to the many dog owners in the community.

“If there was a place other than a gym where you could get healthier and happier, you would get there as quickly as possible right? In communities across our country there are such places, places where blood pressure and body weight are reduced and where smiles and friendly faces abound. These magical places are called dog parks,” Jenkins said. “They offer a safe place for canines and their owners to socialize. Dog park visitors also serve as a sort of neighborhood watch. The mere presence of people and dogs can reduce the rate of crime in surrounding areas. Dog parks foster a sense of community and we want Clovis to be known as a dog-friendly city with fun dog parks to explore along with our quaint antique shops and our unique restaurants.”

Jenkins said she first approached the city about creating a dog park in 2008, but with the recession the city did not have the funds to build one.

Now that the economy has improved, Jenkins said she thinks this is the time to address the issue, just as Fresno is. Though Fresno already has the seven dog parks, according to Fresno Parks Supervisor Levi Winebrenner, five additional dog parks are slated to be built over the next five years. This would give Fresno 12 dog parks, while Clovis, arguably a more walkable city, still has zero.

Jenkins suggested the easiest and least expensive way for the city to get a dog park going would be to create one within one of the already established parks. Specifically, she said building a dog park space within Railroad Park, would be ideal because there is plenty of room, the park already has shade, and it’s not too close to a residential neighborhood.

“We are recommending the first dog park be started right away and a second dog park be slated for 2019,” Jenkins said. “We are suggesting using an existing park, thereby significantly reducing costs. Our recommendation would be using the southeast corner of Railroad Park because it could back up against an existing block wall that would save money needed for fencing and there is ample street parking, shade and benches already there. This side of the park is rarely used. Another reason this park would be great is that is already has two children’s play areas, which would allow parents to keep up with their kids while they are in the dog park with their canines. Railroad Park, along with Cottonwood Park, would both be excellent choices because these two parks border streets and trails and not homes. This should reduce any complaints.”

Jenkins said all that would be required to establish a park in that area are gates and fencing around two areas—one area for small dogs under 25 pounds and one area for larger dogs—some additional shade and benches, dog bag dispensers and trash cans to dispose of dog waste. Signage would also be needed to relay dog park rules, such as no aggressive dogs, no kids under a certain age, and the like.

Retired Clovis police officer Gene Chandler said citizens have long wondered why there is no dog park in Clovis and he thinks it is a great idea to establish one soon.

“When I was still working for the city of Clovis as a police officer that was a big deal and a lot of citizens asked me why we don’t have one and I broached it with city staff back then and I was told maybe someday,” Chandler said. “I think someday is now. These folks have been doing a lot of work on this petition to get the dog park going and I’m here to support them.”

Resident Josie Maguire echoed Jenkins’ comments about the need for a dog park and also told council members that she was disturbed that when they went to the city to submit the petition a city employee referred to them as “cheerleaders.” While the remark may not have been intended as an insult, Maguire emphasized that the comment was inappropriate. The dog park, she said, may not seem a pressing issue, but she said this is a serious need in the city that many residents want.

“We’ve been told this would be put on the backburner,” Maguire said. “But we don’t want it on the backburner, we want this on the front burner.”

Council members said they are supportive of a dog park in Clovis.

Mayor Pro Tem Drew Bessinger, though not a dog owner, said he took it upon himself to do some research and visit several dog parks in the area, including one in Hanford, one in Lemoore, one in Kingsburg and three in Fresno.

“I’ve been following the dog park issue on the nextdoor app for the last six months and have visited many dog parks,” Bessinger said. “I’m not a dog owner, but I think this would be a good thing for the city.”

Mayor Bob Whalen said the city is in the final stages of its new Parks Master Plan and once that is released, he believes the dog park advocates will be happy.

“The final draft should be available soon and at that point I believe we will see some recommendations for parks in general but also something specifically related to a dog park,” Whalen said. “From among those recommendations I’ve heard, I have not seen it, but I’ve heard there will be some suggestions for locations. There will be some neighborhood outreach to find out in that neighborhood who may be opposed and who is in favor and then the city will try to establish a funding stream to keep that park maintained. It is certainly not on the backburner … I think your comments about wanting a dog park in Clovis are well taken and though I can’t share with you what is going developed in the master plan for parks, I’m hoping you will be happy with it.”

The new plan, Whalen said, should be released within the next few months.