Living here in California we’re surrounded by any number of wonders. The over-arching sky of purest blue. The dancing white-tops of the foamy Pacific waves. The heart-stoppingly high real estate values. The jaw-droppingly long early morning commutes. But let’s focus on the positive for a moment: we live in a golden state, a blissful, delightful, and utterly lovely land, surrounded by Mother Nature’s finest works. And perhaps because of the abundance of loveliness and sunshine and palm trees fer Pete’s sake, our lifestyles reflect a vibrant, outdoor chic that sees us hiking Mt. Diablo, skiing in Tahoe, sailing in the Bay, and driving the coast road, with the wind in our hair. And for most of the fun activities we get up to, we’re also blessed to be able to bring along our furry companions, our canine best friends who make life just that little bit more worth living.
And because California is a place where you can take your dog practically anywhere – except perhaps for the actual slopes of Tahoe – we are also spoiled by the number and caliber of local dog parks.
Just look at our own little corner of paradise – Contra Costa County. According to DogTrekker.com, our little area boasts no fewer than 9 dedicated dog parks – and that’s before we take into account the 64 parks governed by the East Bay Regional Park District in which dogs are frequently (although not always) allowed to roam under voice command. (For the record, DogGoes.com has the figure way higher but I couldn’t be bothered to count them all as they span two full pages…) So yes, those among us whose ‘kids’ are furry with four feet and a cold wet nose are fortunate indeed.
And so it was with some excitement that I followed a sign to the all-new dog park that has sprung up at the marina in Old Town. As a frequent visitor to Heather Farms Dog Park in Walnut Creek, Paso Nogal in Pleasant Hill, and Baldwin Park in Concord, I found my heart beating just a little faster at the thought of a dog park right here, virtually at the end of my street. Gone would be the days, I thought, my breath coming faster and my pulse racing in excitement, of having to load my barky, yippy, hyper-excitable little dogsters into a car and to drive 45 minutes, their yowling cacophony reaching the equivalent decibel level of an incoming jet liner at SFO before we even got outta town. Banished, I hoped, was the head-splitting pain and aggravated tinnitus that routinely accompanies any car ride with my ‘Little Darlings’ even when our ultimate destination is not the vet (as their desperate and pathological screaming might suggest) but a fun trip out for them to chase a ball and ‘network with’ (aka sniff the butts of) new friends.
But on rounding the corner by the KiteBar Cafe, eager to lay eyes on this modern social marvel that the City in its magnificence has bestowed us, I pulled up short. Stumbling over one of my canine compatriots and inflicting a swift, if involuntary, kick to the rear end of the other, I gazed incredulously at what lay before me. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, allow me to illustrate this for you now.
This is the view that greeted me. A section of scrubby land with a few trees and bushes, adjacent to the often busy Marina Boulevard. Haphazardly enclosed, more or less, by some none-too-sturdy metal fencing, the park boasted two vital things. Look closely, dear reader, and you’ll see them straight away. One is a trash can for doggie poop (always helpful) along with a dispenser for poop collection bags. I will be the first to admit that this is a god-send, even though I never leave home without a veritable backpack full of poop bags.
Just. In. Case.
But the other thing that you might well have spotted is the shiny new sign that screams at the top of its lungs: DOG PARK. Hey, over here! Look at me! I’m a DOG PARK!!!!!
No mistaking that one.
But what observant readers may also have noticed is the lack of Something Critical to the safety and well being of the average dog – the target audience for this particular new Pittsburg attraction. Go on, hazard a guess. I’ll give you three tries….
OK, OK, there’s no fooling you! You got it in one. No gate. There is no gate to keep the Little Darlings IN the dog park. Let’s look even closer:
No gate AND substantial gaps between fence panels and, at ground level, holes you could drive a pony and cart though.
Now I cannot claim that my dogs would ever win Westminster. They’re not ‘Canine Good Citizens’ and they are in no way ‘smarter than the average’ pup. In fact, despite their lovable natures, their abysmal IQ has me wondering some days how they continue to draw breath. But even they will quickly see that there’s absolutely nothing to do inside of the fence and no way for their mamma – that’s me – to keep them shepherded safely within its confines. Because…no gate!
So what is the point of this useless ‘dog park’? Slumped along the side of the road, sniffing tailpipe fumes from vehicles speeding hastily to Happy Hour at the PYC or to rendezvous with a shady character in a hoodie and gravity-defying pants in the wasteland by the bait shop, it doesn’t even enjoy the sunny location that’s been given over to a water-thirsty (yep, we *are* still in the time of historic drought, people) green swatch sprawling between it and the marina. That particular patch of prime real estate sports multiple ‘Keep off the Grass’, ‘Get away from me, you peasant!’ signage that all but pepper-sprays you in the face if you even consider placing a foot upon its lush, well-kempt sod.
So what is a canine citizen of Pittsburg to do? Faced with an unusable dog park and banned from fun – off-leash or even with human parent in tow – any mutt worth their salt is gonna whine and yowl and growl and warble until they’re loaded up once again into a tin can on wheels and driven, amid much yapping and yawping, up over the hills to a place where they can sniff butts and chase a ball for a while. Which we will continue to do. And the money I would have spent on a soothing beverage (to compensate for the nightmare of the drive) while I watched my Best Friends cavorting in the sunshine will go to the coffee shops in Clayton or Walnut Creek or Concord or wherever, rather than into the coffers of the admittedly excellent purveyors of caffeine right here in town. And the money that the City has spent in purchasing and erecting these bright, gleaming DOG PARK signs is equally lost because no-one’s ever going to use this ‘facility.’ As with so many things here in Pittsburg, this is a good idea very badly executed. A simple pleasure not thought through by folks who want to seem to be doing good works without, in reality, ever deploying more than one brain cell at a time to actually do the job right.
What a silly waste of funds and of potential.
~ The Whole Enchilada.