What is the proposal for the Arcata Dog Park?
In their 2010 Parks and Recreation Master Plan, the City of Arcata identified the need to develop a leash-free dog area. The location would be adjacent to the Arcata Marsh on I Street, south of Samoa Blvd. The property is flat with some trees and shrubs. The vision is to have a fenced play area for both small and large dogs, parking lot, and a gravel multi-use trail circling the perimeter outside the fence.
What is the need for a dog park in Arcata?
A dog park is beneficial for both dog owners and non-dog owners. Dog owners need a safe and contained space where their dogs can run and play. This helps to maintain the health and well-being of the dogs and provides a place for socialization, increasing good behavior that can reduce harmful behavior among poorly socialized dogs. The dog park offers a clean space eliminating the risk of disease from tainted streams.
Non-dog owners and the general community benefit as a fenced dog park reduces the impact free-roaming dogs can have on the environment. The Community Forest, Arcata Marsh, and many beach areas require that dogs be leashed. The potential impact includes protection of bird, marine, and other natural wildlife; reduced dog elimination in natural areas; and fewer conflicts between dog and non-dog owners. To quote Rees Hughes in the April 17th edition of the North Coast Journal on protecting marine life, “Each person I spoke with also made a plea to walk dogs on leashes. Whether it’s a seal pup on the beach, an injured opossum you find on your daily walk, or a baby bird on the ground, there is little good that comes from the addition of a curious dog" (NCJ April 17, 2014, p 27).
Through conversations with other cities (Fortuna, Ashland, Eureka, etc.) and visits to local dog parks throughout the state, we find it is common for cities and towns to have dog parks. In 90% of these, administration is through Parks & Recreation.
What are the benefits of a dog park?
Much like parks, children’s playgrounds, and sports areas, dog parks have become another common asset for communities. They meet a need for dogs and their owners, and they also offer a beautiful and playful scene for everyone, much like watching softball at the Arcata Community Center, tennis at Larsen Park, and children playing at Redwood Park. We all benefit even if we aren’t playing. It gives us a stronger sense of community.
Fortuna Chamber of Commerce played a major role in the formation of the Fortuna dog park because staff learned at a statewide conference for Chambers that dog parks have been shown to be a draw for tourists. Families are choosing to travel with their dogs and in fact, planning where to visit/stay based on pet-friendly lodging and areas to exercise their dogs. (Click here to see the Bring Fido website.)
Experience in communities that have dog parks has demonstrated that the parks have high attendance. Even in the town as small as Ashland, Oregon, that has 26,500 residents, they are now putting a second dog park on the other end of town due to such high participation rates at the existing dog park. According to the Director of Parks and Recreation the “hotels loved it.”
As it is now, dog owners in Arcata must drive a half hour to Fortuna for a fenced dog park. McKinleyville’s Hiller Park has an off-leash area for dogs, but this does not provide safety for the people walking or biking through the park who do not want any contact with dogs. It also does not provide the safety of a fence for dogs that run. Reduced reliance on longer driving distance for dog owners benefits them and the environment.
For families that do not have a yard large enough for their dogs to play and run and for older adults and for individuals with disabilities, dog parks offer a safe, accessible location for their dogs to get exercise.