Then & Now
By Judy Salamacha
Welcome to my world today. Today’s column includes a personal flashback to a story I wrote in 2006 soon after Neil Farrell, Managing Editor for The Bay News, jumpstarted my Central Coast writing career.
I was invited to cover a neighborhood meeting of a group of dog-lovers trying to establish an enclosed, permanent, off-leash dog park. Just recently, our family experienced the fruits of their 10-year quest, The Jody Giannini Family Dog Park, which opened in January, 2010.
A well-earned high-five goes to the neighbors, who created the nonprofit, Morro Bay Pups. Many thanks for developing and maintaining an amazing facility at Del Mar Park in Morro Bay.
My husband Bob and I now have relief from “puppy-zoomies,” those harrowing minutes of running in circles and bouncing off furniture. Our LabraDane rescue puppy, CJ, is 6-months old and weighs 55-pounds.
He loved Woods Humane Society’s Saturday puppy socialization classes and romping at the beach with his classmate, Luna, until her parents had to go back to work after the holidays. He’d take us on wonderful walks downtown and along the Embarcadero, but come home crazed. He needed fast-break running, tackling, and slobbery dog-play with dog-friends. And yes, we’re signed up for Woods CHARM School — the acronym for basic training.
An excerpt from that Bay News article follows: “Since the Morro Bay City Council approved a permanent off-leash dog facility at Del Mar Park, members of Morro Bay Pups have worked non-stop to prove to each council member their vote, indeed, has widespread community support… to proceed to the next step in the development process for a future Del Mar Dog Park… As of Sunday, April 2 more than 800 signatures have been gathered in support of the Dog Park… As reported by member Gina Gaughn, appropriate paperwork will soon be filed to establish non-profit status in the name of Morro Bay Pups so the group can begin to raise the necessary funds to prove to city leadership that development and maintenance of the Dog Park would not be a financial burden to the City…
“In an effort to be good neighbors Morro Bay Pups notified and invited all the adjacent neighbors, particularly on Island Street, to an exploratory meeting hosted by Anita and Sam Ayoob to discuss and resolve issues impacting their neighborhoods…
“Karen Robert said, “We’ve had a dog park for six years at Del Mar Park allowing dog owners to exercise their dogs off-leash.”
There were 1,527 registered dogs in 2004 and the recreation department allowed by permit the use of the park. “Our dogs need a place to go and our group believes a permanent location dedicated for our dogs’ enjoyment will offset the current problems and issues neighbors usually bring up. We intend to police ourselves and dog park users, beautify the area selected, and develop and maintain the dog park with funds we’ll raise from supportive dog owners in the area wanting such a facility.”
Indeed, Morro Bay Pups endured. What the City of Morro Bay and Morro Bay Pups built together must be the envy of the county. The romping room is a dog’s paradise plus an owner’s secured meeting place while watching their furry children play.
Fenced enclosures separate the small dogs from the larger dogs. Playtime is on the grassy mounds and level stretches. Large water bowls with hoses near for replenishment are provided along with poop-bag containers, sponsored by individuals or community groups managed by Mutts for the Bay, a Morro Bay National Estuary Program.
Used tennis balls from the adjacent tennis courts are often available to throw and retrieve. It’s well maintained by docents, checking morning and evening if owners have left the park as clean as they found it. Nice people who love their dogs have one rule — control your dog if he/she is not playing nice and pick up messes.
Check out their website: www.morrobaypups.org for their history, board, and how to get involved. It states that in 1995, Virginia Hanigan and Jane Von Koehe took their dogs to play together in the mornings at Del Mar Park. More joined so they called themselves, “The Del Mar Doggies Social Club” (DMDSC).
They found the area west of the basketball/rink area was out of the way, and most suitable for off leash dog play. Karen Robert, a member of the Morro Bay Recreation and Parks Commission, obtained a yearly permit to use this area.
When City officials questioned liability issues they withdrew the permit, but the group pressed on. In 2006, Morro Bay Pups formed as a non-profit organization. A retired attorney, Steve Eckis, joined the board and guided efforts and permitting process to establish the dog park.
The City of Morro Bay donated a large area that was under-utilized at Del Mar Park. The group fund raised with garage sales and bake sales before a major capital campaign in 2008.
Board member, Naida Simpson, produced a widely distributed brochure. Coast Veterinary Clinic was an honorary co-chair and Elaine Giannini and her family made the significant donation for naming rights in honor of Elaine’s brother, Jody.
Other major donors were: Nancy Mellen, Jack E. Robinson, Morro Bay Beautiful, Virginia Hanigan and Bob Ransom, Duane and Seta Stephens, Carla Borchard, Jean Code, Sally abd Bob Young and Cynthia Chavez.
Freelance writer, columnist and author of “Colonel Baker’s Field: An American Pioneer Story,” Judy Salamacha’s Then & Now column is a regular feature of Simply Clear Marketing & Media. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (805) 801-1422 with story ideas.