Menlo Park: Fatigued council debates dog park, again


Fatigue appeared to weigh on City Council members as they heard a presentation on May 24 by city staff, asking for advice on how to move forward with the restoration of Nealon Park's baseball field and part-time dog park.

Talks about how to make a dog park work at Nealon Park have gone on for about 12 years now, according to remarks by Cherise Brandell, community services director; Todd Zeo, recreation supervisor; and Derek Schweigart, community services manager.

In 2004, it was decided that the baseball field at Nealon Park could be converted to a dog park for a couple of hours each weekday morning. Back then, Mayor Rich Cline was serving on the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Over the years, to maintain the field's cleanliness, it was watered for at least half an hour each day, city staff said. In the last few years, however, drought conditions, emergency water restrictions and a failing irrigation system on the field have taken hold, leaving the field in bad condition, they said.

Something needs to be done to fix the field, a project that has already been approved in this fiscal year's budget, said Ms. Brandell, and whether it is reseeded or converted to artificial turf will determine whether or not dogs will be allowed there.

She said staff is looking around to see if there are other places where artificial-turf sports fields double as dog parks, but they haven't found any yet.

Ultimately, Mayor Cline urged staff to repair the baseball field to as high a standard as possible, using as little water as necessary.

Maintenance on the Nealon Park baseball field will continue as determined necessary by the Public Works Department, said Ms. Brandell.

Meanwhile, this winter, staff will talk to the community and the council about what kind of surface should be installed on the renovated baseball field.

In the spring, she said, the city will pilot a program to temporarily move the dog park to a proposed location near Little House while the baseball field undergoes its annual six- to eight-week spring restoration, during which no dogs are allowed there. The actual renovation of the baseball field may not take place until fall 2017, she said, to avoid conflict with baseball season.

The 'Great Lawn'

Last November preliminary concept plans proposed placing a dog park on an adjacent open lawn, rather than the baseball field at Nealon Park. The space is called by some the "Great Lawn."

Numerous emails of opposition from nearby residents and users of the "Great Lawn" flooded the council's inbox. Opponents said they use the field for children's birthday parties, impromptu gatherings and "unstructured" child play space, and don't want it taken over by a relatively small number of dog owners. (Dog owners say that roughly 30 to 40 people bring their dogs to the park during its open hours each day.)

That field has since been removed from consideration for a dog park. Two alternate proposals for dog park locations at Nealon Park, each a half-acre in size, were proposed: one between Middle Avenue and the tennis courts, and the other adjacent to Little House senior activity center. To be a full half-acre at the Little House site, however, the boundaries might have to encroach slightly onto the "Great Lawn."

Without organized advocacy by dog owners, or a willingness to help pay for maintaining a dog park, Mayor Cline said, "I'm skeptical that a solution is something that's going to work."

Whoever had been heading DOGMA, or the "Dog Owner Group of Menlo Park," seems to have disappeared, said Ms. Brandell.

One dog owner at the meeting, Kathy Schoendorf, said an enclosed space for her dog is necessary, because it will run away otherwise. She has used the dog park for four years, and believes that at least a half-acre space is necessary. Anything smaller, she said, and dogs can become territorial and may fight with each other.

"We're willing to work with you," she said. "We are happy to pay for poop removal (or) whatever it is."

Council member Peter Ohtaki suggested another workshop to solidify community consensus on whether the Nealon Park alternative spaces could work.

Council member Catherine Carlton, on the other hand, said she wanted a decision to be made and for talks on the subject to end.

As Menlo Park resident Mary Kuehler put it, "A decision has to be made, and the neighborhood has to be kept informed. Nobody wants another workshop."

Editor's Note: A previous version of the story incorrectly spelled Mary Kuehler as Mary Keekler.

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


22 people like this
Posted by mary
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on May 27, 2016 at 12:33 pm

i simply do not understand the concern over watering a small patch of lawn to be used by people playing baseball and pet owners...when the city continues to approve massive apartment buildings and hotels. the water usage in those buildings is far greater than any amount potentially used at nealon park.

9 people like this
Posted by No artificial turf for sports
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 27, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Over the past year there have been studies which question the safety of artificial turf use for sports. While real grass presents a water and maintenance issues, the safety and environmental impacts of artificial turf should be considered.

Web Link

9 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 27, 2016 at 2:34 pm

Lyle Park has turned into sunset dog park. No big deal except my kid had dog crap all over his cleat after a soccer game. I'm really glad he didn't fall in it. One dog owner can ruin it for all.

22 people like this
Posted by Dog OWNER and tax payer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 27, 2016 at 3:50 pm

This is so disappointing. Is the City going to resort to paying an over priced consultant to tell them what every other Bay Area City has already figured out? You build dog parks - same as playground in the neighborhoods and our taxes fund the parks. Clearly Mayor Cline is not dog friendly with his comments that there needs to be "a willingness to help pay for maintaining a dog park" and that there needs to be an organized dog owners advocacy group. Yes, for the past 12 years this issue is raised at the City, dog owners speak out and then are promptly ignored. It's not rocket science, but our Parks and Recreation Dept can't figure it out and are being given terrible guidance by Mayor Cline. With more and more homeowners (aka Tax Payers) owning dogs in the City of Menlo Park, the City should be working to create additional dog parks, not eliminating the few that are currently open. Most cities around the Bay have already begun allowing mixed use parks - allowing dogs to use the open spaces and also creating more enclosed dog parks for their residents. No more advocacy is necessary- obviously there are dogs living in Menlo Park that require spaces to run and socialize, same as the children. Instead of making excuses, open up the parks to the dogs, and keep Nealon park field open - converting the playing field to artificial is a terrible idea, and worse for the environment and children's health than natural grass and some dogs sharing the field. Doesn't even save much on water. If the City of Menlo Park needs guidance, look to Palo Alto and Mountain View. The reason there are no more dog advocates coming to City Council meetings is that we know that the Mayor and the Community Services Department do not listen nor do they seems to care about what we have to say. The suggestion by the Mayor that dog owners should have to fund the dogs parks is about as absurd as telling parents that they should fund playgrounds for the children in the City. Plenty of money in the budget to make this work - if there's a will. Sadly, I'm not seeing it, and just more feet dragging and excuses coming from the City staff and bureaucrats.

5 people like this
Posted by Samia
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 27, 2016 at 4:55 pm

Agree 100% with Dog OWNER and tax payer's comments above.

8 people like this
Posted by Child Parent and Dog parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 29, 2016 at 6:34 pm

Pay for it? Are you going to start billing parents that use the playgrounds and also leave trash? Taxes, dude. Serve all your citizens please.

6 people like this
Posted by Jenson
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 29, 2016 at 11:35 pm

The dogs need to move somewhere else. Its ridiculous to have 50 or so dogs use the entire softball field. They can get by with a smaller facility like in other cities. Nealon softball field is for sports, both youth and adult. It generates revenue for the city and the dog park does not. The field provides exercise for 1,000s of adults and 1000s of kids over the course of a year. Yet these 50 or so dog owners feel entitled to this large field at the inconvenience of the city staff who maintains the field because they cant cut the lawn or work on the field in the mornings. Not to mention the health of it sports league participants that use it in the evenings and weekends. Its a selfish attitude, 50 dogs do not need a softball field that covers over 57,000 sq feet. I have seen these dogs on the field and they need about a 1/4 of the space, and that's generous, to run around on. A hired poop service does not work. It did not work in 2004 because dog owners come out regardless of what times are posted and there is no way to police the field after the poop service leaves. It was a bad idea in 2004 and its still a bad idea. Council needs to say no to the dog park on the softball field and use the field for what it was intended for and that's sports. Follow through with the plan and stop stalling its been going on for 10 years. Enough of this nonsense

7 people like this
Posted by I didn't know that
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 30, 2016 at 8:19 am

The 'dog park' discussion won't be valid until the city enforces the leash laws at other venues. The fields at La Entrada school have become a 'dog park' and dogs run 'off leash' their daily. I don't think these dog owners care too much about having a city designated 'dog park'. They already have one of their own.

2 people like this
Posted by Liberal
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on May 31, 2016 at 1:03 am

Liberal is a registered user.

Jenson wrote: "The dogs need to move somewhere else."

Where should the dogs move to? I don't use Nealon Park so I have no dog in this fight, so to speak. I am just curious.

7 people like this
Posted by jmir
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 31, 2016 at 1:02 pm

I agree entirely that the city should be providing legal space for dogs and that dog owners already pay for it with their taxes. We should not be encouraging dog owners to get in their cars and drive to other cities to exercise their dogs nor should we be cramming dogs into spaces that are not big enough nor open for enough hours to meet their needs.

1 person likes this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 31, 2016 at 1:59 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

But.... many dog owners, not all, can't be bothered to clean up after their dogs. Had the same problem on my front lawn until I gave the deposits back to the owners front porch.

2 people like this
Posted by Jenson
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 31, 2016 at 2:17 pm

To Liberal, the dogs can move to willow park dog area or whatever new space the city decides is appropriate. Nealon softball field is not appropriate. It is also open for only a few hours in the morning and this does not serve all dog owners since many work during the day. Then again the current group dog owners are selfish and only interested in there current location and not a dedicated dog area that would be open all day and serve more of the community.

12 people like this
Posted by Dog OWNER and tax payer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 31, 2016 at 2:26 pm

Such a tired excuse to keep dogs out of the parks because of one or two bad dog owners. When the kids (or parents) misbehave at the playground, do you shut it down? Of course not. The City of Menlo Park needs to do a better job at providing public dog parks - where residents aka taxpayers can take their dogs to build community. The City's Parks and Recreation department should be advocating to create additional dog parks, not working to shut them down.

2 people like this
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 31, 2016 at 4:17 pm

How about requiring registration of dogs, and matching uncollected waste with owners through something like Web Link? This would help ensure clean-up, and fines can go towards paying for dog park maintenance, with minimal $$ impact to responsible pet owners who actually pick up after their dog.

3 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 31, 2016 at 4:26 pm

The East Bay doesn't have the same leash laws as we do. Perhaps if we relaxed the leash laws, there wouldn't be the need for off-leash areas.

Like this comment
Posted by I didn't know that
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 31, 2016 at 5:48 pm

@ Really?

It doesn't matter what the leash laws are if they aren't enforced.

5 people like this
Posted by To Jensen
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 31, 2016 at 7:45 pm

I'm a little amazed that you offer "revenue" as an argument.

What revenue do the playgrounds and casual parks provide?

About 50% of residents have pets
Less than 30% have kids.

Obviously your logic implies those kids should start earning their keep and giving the city revenue if they want those jungle gyms!

Lastly, the 40-50 regulars at the dog part are joined by the hundreds of occasional users. It doesn't have to be a shared space, but dog parks are now a standard city service in the bay area.

Like this comment
Posted by Jenson
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 1, 2016 at 12:25 am

"I'm a little amazed that you offer "revenue" as an argument."

I am talking about the softball field not the playgrounds or open area adjacent to the playground. The SOFTBALL FIELD does generate revenue

However both the playground and open area can be rented for activities such as birthday parties, jump inflatables or sports camps and classes. So they do generate revenue for the city as well.

I am not arguing against the dogs having a place to run. I am all for that. I am saying it should not be on the softball field. The city has offered several alternatives but the Dogma group continues to cry foul. Can you locate another dog park that is sharing a city softball field...probably not. Again very selfish behavior by a small group of people.

Softball teams pay over $600 to $700 dollars for a 10 week softball season that includes paying for upkeep of the field and playing their games. What do the dog park people pay for use of the SOFTBALL FIELD.

2 people like this
Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 17, 2016 at 4:08 pm

The Nealon Playing Field IS the Best Identified Option For A Dog Park. Let's improve this unique source of City vitality NOT destroy it! Read More at Web Link

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Peek inside the fine-dining Selby's, opening in Redwood City this summer
By Elena Kadvany | 3 comments | 3,020 views

Juggling Renewables
By Sherry Listgarten | 42 comments | 2,154 views

Homestead Faire at Hidden Villa 4/27
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 968 views

Premarital and Couples: "You're Not Listening to Me!" may mean "I don't feel heard."
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 722 views

Migraines and motherhood
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 465 views


The Almanac Readers' Choice ballot is here

It's time to decide what local business is worthy of the title "The Almanac Readers' Choice" — and you get to decide! Cast your ballot online. Voting ends May 27th. Stay tuned for the results in the July 17th issue of The Almanac.