OAKLAND -- With determination, a group of volunteers is working hard to refurbish the Hardy Dog Park in Rockridge.
Leaders of the rehabilitation effort met with dog owners recently to get comments on the renovation plan. Hardy was the city's first dog park that was created in the 1990s from a small plot of land owned by Caltrans beneath a freeway off-ramp at Claremont and Hudson avenues. Hardy is adjacent to Frog Park, a grassy play area serving the surrounding neighborhood.
Though Hardy was the first dog park, it has remained essentially a vacant fenced-in lot where dogs are allowed to stretch their legs and socialize. Planning the remodel has taken almost two years because organizers needed to work with several public agencies that have an interest in the property.
The lot is owned by Caltrans, used by the city of Oakland under an easement agreement and by BART, which runs its tracks through the area. All have a say in the matter, said Peter Lund of the volunteer group Scenic Streets.
But the public agencies have little money to donate, so volunteers have had to raise the cash for the remodel.
The remodeling fund now stands at $55,000, including money raised by the volunteers and a $10,000 donation from the new Petco store that just opened in Rockridge.
"Mostly, it's been up to volunteers like us and neighbors like you to raise the money," Lund said.
Lund presented a list of proposed renovations which include:
Trees and shrubs to beautify the area. This was at the top of a wish list compiled after the group polled park users.
An electrical "chase" for future lighting. This would be available to hook up lights for nighttime use. The lighting is not planned at this time and would have to go through a city permit process involving neighbors who might object to the glare.
Handicapped amenities. An asphalt pathway, gate latches and benches built to American Disability Act standards would be installed to make the park accessible to disabled dog owners.
Small dog play areas. A fenced in area with a locking gate would be built to separate small canines from larger breeds.
Sanitary watering stations and an in-ground trash bin. These would be used to keep the areas clean and avoid use of a water hose for dogs who need a drink.
Rainwater improvement to avoid flooding on rainy days. Caltrans would agree to repair a damaged dirt berm, which is supposed to divert water onto nearby Claremont Avenue and install an overflow drain pit as a backup measure.
Much of the debate during the meeting centered on placement of gates.
A four-foot fence with a locked gate to keep big dog owners from cutting through the small dog enclosure on their way into and out of the park came under criticism from at least one owner.
The enclosure could be a trap if an armed assailant entered the small dog zone and blocked the exit on the other side, she said.
Other possible locations would place the gate entrance too close to children playing in Frog Park and would force dog owners to walk through the play area to enter the park Lund said.
Other residents complained of a homeless encampment near an adjacent basketball court that discouraged dog walking. Lund understood the complaint.
"We have a problem with people being in the park when they shouldn't be there," he said.
Better lighting may discourage homeless camping, Lund said.
Other organizers said police could help with the problem.
And then there's the problem of dog waste.
The city will not pay for plastic bags to pick up after the dogs and Emily Rosenberg, founder of the Oakland Dog Owners Group, urged owners to look after their own dogs.
"I am strongly urging people to bring your own bag," she said.