The Alhambra Source is entering its fifth year producing stories. To celebrate, we’re publishing a retrospective of the stories that reflect our spirit and mission.
In 2012 Esmee Xavier asked for a space for her dog, Buddy, to play and interact with other mutts. She echoed the sentiments of other Alhambra pet-owners who said there were too many restrictions on where they could bring their dogs. On Thursday the Parks and Recreation Commission saw a presentation about a possible dog park on New Avenue and Ramona Street. Residents showed up at the meeting to voice their disapproval, raising concerns that the proposed site is too close to residential homes. City Staff said they will continue to work with residents and explore other possible areas. Xavier has not been around to keep up with these developments: since March 2014 she has been traveling and teaching English in South America. “I started in Colombia, made my way through Ecuador, and am now in Peru,” Xavier wrote to us. “I saw some cool things, like lots of the Amazons and the Galapagos.” She's keeping in touch with Buddy via Facebook.
My family and I are proud owners of a golden retriever and border collie mix named Buddy. Like other respectable dog owners, we consider him to be part of the family. But unlike the kids of Alhambra, Buddy has an extremely limited amount of space to run around because — as local canine owners are well aware — we have no dog park here. Not only is there no place for Buddy to run free, he is officially barred from city green spaces: A law exists in Alhambra, dating back to the 1970s, which forbids dogs from entering all the public parks in the city, even while kept on a leash. Instead, my family often drives more than 20 minutes to Pasadena to let Buddy run free and socialize with other dogs.
For years, Alhambra residents have been speaking out about the lack of options for dogs in the city’s public spaces. The most recent example came during last week’s City Council meeting when Jody Vegnone asked about allowing dogs on leashes to enter public places. “I’m wondering if times have changed in Alhambra,” he asked. “I don’t think anyone wants to see dogs running freely throughout the park, but if they’re registered, and owners are lawfully picking up after them and so on, I’m just wondering what the harm would be in that.”
Councilman Steven Placido said that the creation of a dog park is an item on Alhambra's strategic plan — and that the biggest question is determining a location for an official dog park. Until dogs have a park to call their own, Vegnone responded with the suggestion that Almansor Park might have enough size to accommodate both people and dogs. But Councilwoman Barbara Messina disagreed: “Almansor has so many youth activities and games that the dogs might mess with while kids are playing, and that’s something that parents would not be happy about.”
City officials did not provide other sites that could be possible alternatives to Almansor, although Mayor Luis Ayala said that they would continue seeking out potential locations for a dog park. What sites those are and when it will become a reality is still unclear. "We've been looking at this for the past two years," Director of Community Services Cynthia Jarvis said in a phone interview. "It's still in the exploratory stages."
It appears to me that there is more than ample space within Alhambra’s existing public facilities for the creation of a dog park. The Pasadena Off-Leash Dog Park covers around 2.5 acres, which are divided up into two separate fields — one for small dogs, and one for larger dogs. While that kind of square footage is ideal, we don’t really need all that much space for a successful dog park, just a relatively small, fenced-in square of grass with enough room for dogs to run freely.
In the meantime, loving dog owners are forced into a difficult position. Despite signs and stamps in the cement that read "no dogs," I’ve snuck Buddy several times onto local parks, including Story and Alhambra, because it just gets boring staying on the sidewalk. (I don’t recommend this to all dog owners though because Buddy is well-trained, and I’ve been lucky enough to visit Story Park a few times during the day when there wasn’t a single other person out there — not to mention it’s illegal). Yet there are a number of sites within the city that could easily fit an official dog park. Almansor, for instance, has a few unoccupied patches of space that aren’t in use by any city activity (i.e. near the covered picnic area next to the pond). Just across the street from Alhambra park is an expansive stretch of grass where I see almost no human traffic, which makes it just another example of spots throughout the city that might benefit from opening its gates to Alhambra’s canines.
I'm clearly biased, but I believe the time has come for Alhambra residents to share what the City could do to give the dogs more space. Do you agree? Is a dog park the best solution? Where would one go? Please share your opinions below.