Arroyo Grande dog park faces uncertain future after group decides to step away from city partnership

Feb 4, 2015

The off-leash Elm St. Dog Park in Arroyo Grande, Calif.
Credit Google Maps - Street View

The group that built and maintained Arroyo Grande's Elm St. Dog Park says it no longer wants to be a part of that project.

The Five Cities Dog Park Association (FCDPA) says a long history of poor city relations, as well as troubles with some park users, simply became too much for the group to handle.

Jerry Bunin is a long-time FCDPA board member and says these troubles included occasions where people put shards of glass in a comment box at the park—glass those same people said they found mixed in with the wood chips that had been delivered by the city.

Negative comments about the park on the pet travel website point to the glass issue, but blame the board for not addressing it properly.

Plans to install artificial turf and crushed granite walkways then fell through after months of planning and fundraising by the association, according to Bunin. He says after failed attempts to work out the issue with the city, the board decided to throw in the towel.

"We're angry, but we still try to take the high road" says Bunin. "We left all of our supplies behind and we told the city that they could have them, and that included a lawn mower that we bought and an edger that we bought." Bunin says they also left behind a six month supply of Mutt Mitts. 

Bunin says his group doesn't plan to disband, but instead plans to focus its money and efforts on other potential dog venues in the Five Cities area.

Arroyo Grande Interim City Manager Robert McFall—who is just a few weeks on the job—says efforts are underway to fix the situation, including communication with members of the group.

The land for the dog park is city property that was being maintained by the association through a special partnership. McFall says the group came up with the idea and designed the park. 

"The Dog Park Association has provided a great benefit to the community," said McFall. He says responses from current members of the board to messages of outreach from the city run a spectrum of emotions, showing various levels of anger, but he still says the city would like to mend the relationship. "These are Arroyo Grande citizens and we don't want to be at odds with our citizens."

The draft agenda for next week's Arroyo Grande City Council meeting shows a plan to discuss both short and long-term options for handling the dog park, but that item has yet to be confirmed.