Four of the East Bay's largest dog owner groups made the East Bay Regional Park District's Board of Directors sit up at the Board's meeting on December 20, 2011 when they presented a request to preserve Ordinance 38 (the policy that allows dogs to be off-leash in most undeveloped areas) and acknowledge people with dogs as a user group on Albany Beach. They also presented 10,000 signatures of people who support off-leash recreation in the East Bay.
The dog pack included Albany Landfill Dog Owners Group, Lamorinda Dogs, Oakland Dog Owners Group and Point Isabel Dog Owners Group. Several members of the public also testified in support.
The dog owners groups presented data attesting to the huge popularity of off-leash recreation among East Bay residents. For example, in 2010 there were almost 1.4 million human visits to Point Isabel (and probably at least that many dogs) — more than twice as many people as visited all of Tilden Park, almost 100 times bigger than Point Isabel.
They also pointed out that multi-use parks that encourage off-leash dogs can be very cost-effective. According to Mary Barnsdale of ALDOG, the cost per person to visit Point Isabel last year was about six cents, compared to $2.10 at Tilden Park and $3.00 at Crown Beach. "People with dogs are a pretty cheap date for the park district," Barnsdale says.
ODOG brought up the issue that although 80 percent or so of the park district is theoretically available to people with dogs, much of that is effectively out of reach. "The reality is that people with dogs need trails," said ODOG's Emily Rosenberg. "People with dogs don't want to strike out cross-country — and the park district doesn't want us doing that either."
EBRPD Chairman Beverly Lane assured dog owner groups that the park district is aware how important these issues are. She also asked that dog groups work with members to improve voice control over dogs on the trails. Director Carol Severin said that people with dogs may be happy to hear that 24 new loop trails will open soon and noted that Hayward Shoreline is a great destination.
General Manager Bob Doyle told the Board that EBRPD has tried unsuccessfully in the past to get the state to grandfather in people with dogs on Albany Beach. ALDOG asked the park district to go to the state again, together, to get people with dogs acknowledged as a user group.
Dog owner groups and Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation will meet with the park district's general manager and others in February to follow up.
Also, the park district will conduct a second community survey (telephone and online) early in 2012 to gather more data to help update its Master Plan. (Many of us completed the first online survey in February and March last year. That one was controversial because a number of questions appeared to target people with dogs.) The park district will hold public hearings this summer to discuss its proposed new Master Plan.
Photo: Dog and 10,000 signatures — Mary Barnsdale, ALDOG