[Updated May 20 2018]
Most dog owners are responsible and law-abiding. But there is an extremist element among the dog owners in the park who see themselves as above the law and entitled to destroy whatever stands in the way of their ambitions. That element has been at work for some time vandalizing the signs that mark the boundaries of the 17-acre Off-Leash Area (OLA) in the park. This past week, they struck again, knocking down the steel-pole boundary sign near the flare station. This was the sign that let people on the path know when they were entering or exiting the OLA.
Park management installed this sign (and others like it) simply by driving the steel pole about a foot into the soil, without a concrete anchor. By March this year, when I took the photograph just below, the sign had been turned 90 degrees so that it seemed to control access to the grassy area, instead of indicating a boundary across the path. The steel pole was loose in the ground and the sign was leaning over. It must have been an easy task for someone to pull it up and drop it in the grass nearby.
The same thing happened last year to an identical sign on the east-west pathway on the north side of the OLA, guarding the ridge trail that runs outside the OLA and along the Cesar Chavez Memorial Solar Calendar. That sign was first uprooted and left on the ground, and then disappeared. See photo, left below. As a result, dog owners who come from the north side have no way of knowing that the ridge trail lies outside the OLA.
It’s also true, however, that many dog owners coming from the south side, where there is still a sign, simply ignore it.
Most of the smaller fiberglass posts that marked the boundary of the OLA near the bulletin board have also been vandalized, see photos below.
While direct responsibility for these acts of vandalism and theft lies with the handful of extremists among the dog owners, a share of the blame must go to the dog owners’ association, now known as Citizens for Cesar Chavez Off Leash Area. The owner group mounts fine-sounding website statements about respecting boundaries. But these words don’t seem to have a lot of traction with dog-owning park visitors. The owners’ group quite likely knows who among them is probably responsible for the ongoing destruction of public property, but has done nothing effective to stop it and educate the membership.
The remaining dog signs all over the park outside the OLA are poorly designed or worn out, see photo below. Responsible dog owners have to contend with the bad example of other dog owners who show little or no respect for leash boundaries even where signs are still up.
Park management, which has experienced this attrition of signage for most of the past twenty years, appears to have surrendered to the extremists. The City Council’s 1998 grant of a limited 17-acre OLA has become a dead letter. A handful of vandals and thieves are hell bent on wiping out the dog park boundaries, and the Parks management is standing by doing nothing.
What this experience underlines is that the current layout of the OLA is uncontrollable and impractical. What we’ve got is not a dog park, it’s a dog wasteland. Cesar Chavez Park’s dogs and responsible dog owners need an upgrade: a real and proper dog park, with a fence, a separate area for small and large dogs, and designated sandboxes for dogs to relieve themselves (instead of all over the countryside as at present).