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Home Run VS Dog Run
Anthony Corso | Stratford Court

… a dispute between the Del Mar Little League and a group of local dog lovers over the Shores property has been anything but peaceful after clashes between the two groups earlier this year. …The dispute centers on conflicts between dog lovers-who exercise their pets off–leash and ballplayers that use the field several times a week during the spring baseball season. October Del Mar Times

On October 17th community people filled the City Council Chambers, flowing into the parking lot. They came to address the future of Shores Park, particularly its accommodation of off-leash dog owners versus Little Leaguers and families.

 

 
In the Shores Park. October 2011. Photo Anthony Corso

 

A recent City Staff report notes:

There has been a traditional (but illegal) use of the Shores property by dog owners. (Interestingly, a sign forbidding the use of the park by unleashed dogs was removed several years ago by some unknown person). At one time there was an off-leash dog area at the north end of the field and a portable fence was installed by the Little League to maintain a separation between children and dogs.

The City removed it as a safety hazard, and the entire field began to be used as an off-leash dog area. As the dog area increased in size it compromised the use of the ballfield by children. In April of this year, the Little League left the ballfield due to conflicts with the dog owners.

Of note, the Del Mar Municipal code permits off-leash dogs in only one area of the City—“Dog Beach.” The City has not enforced the municipal code at the Shores. A city sponsored risk management report notes the hazardous presence of dog excrement in the field, but the staff maintains that the vast majority of dog owners clean up after their dogs.

The Council’s policy is to make no commitments to the use of the Shore’s property prior to the development of a master plan of the property—currently scheduled for fiscal year 2013-2014.

 

 
Drew Keeling, 9, and his brother Ralph, 7, warming up for a Little League game 47 years ago in 1964 at the old Del Mar Elementary School, on the corner of 9th street and Highway 101.
Photo courtesy of Lou Keeling.

 

A number of those present spoke in favor of returning the League to the Park noting that the baseball field had existed at Shores for decades. Jeff Bernstein, a father of three and a manager of the Little League, noted that the League serves more than 1,000 kids a year and that every field used by them is important. Others in attendance spoke of their involvement in baseball and what it meant in terms of their childhood as well as the importance of involving youngsters in sports at an early age. Still others cited the fear little children have towards dogs running freely, health issues that might result from dog feces scattered on the site and that some dog owners seem to want exclusive use of the field.

Finally, as one person pointed out, “ In terms of the Park it is not just Little League; there are families and children who would like to use the Park for basketball, soccer, riding bikes, skateboarding, playing with remote control cars, watching movies etc.” As another person pointedly stated, “We can’t turn what was to be a community park for all Del Mar residents into an 8.5 million dollar dog park!”

Dozens of dog owners attended the meeting and described the Shores Park as a true community center, a gathering place for building acquaintances, for sharing life experiences and supporting one another in numerous ways. For dogs the field is a vital place for exercise, for socializing with other non-aggressive dogs and receiving obedience training when needed.

Furthermore, they weren’t seeking exclusive rights to the Park but wished to share the Park with others in the community—including the Little League. In fact, several speakers noted that shared-use parks accommodating off-leash dogs existed and were being built in nearby cities.

After considerable discussion, the City Council declared its interest in the Friends of Del Mar Parks Plan which was presented by Warren Spieker—a plan seeking a compromise on the part of both groups and one that could serve as an interim solution until the Park is master planned. It expands the grassy area and erects a fence separating the Little Leaguers from the dogs.

The City Council decided to explore the Friends of Del Mar Parks proposal and directed the staff to submit a report documenting: the location of additions to the grassy park area, the fence location, the costs of improvements, possible hours of use for various groups, possible fines to ensure adherence to regulatory laws and implementation arrangements with Friends of Del Mar Parks.

Mr. Spieker noted that his proposal would have to be submitted to his board for approval. After the meeting a number of attendees indicated that this might represent a win-win situation.


 
 

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