Dog park supporters are calling for hundreds of dog owners to speak out to support the proposed dog park near Oakland’s Lake Merritt by writing emails and by attending the “Big Vote Meeting” on Wednesday May 2, where the Planning Commission will vote whether not to approve the dog run. The Lakeview Park Dog Run, in the works for more than a decade, is the first Oakland dog park to be planned in a central location and with concern for aesthetics.
Opposition is strong, with hundreds of neighbors fighting against the dog park, claiming that it will decrease their enjoyment of green space and turn the park over to the dogs when it should be “open to everybody.” Dog owners know they are not included in “everybody” because currently dogs are banned from every park in Oakland except by vote of the City Council. Opponents claim they need the green space, while dog owners use the slogan, “It’s Fair to Share.” The approval at the Planning Hearing is the final step before getting City Council approval for this location to be accessible to dog owners.
The half acre dog run will be in Lakeview Park at the corner of Lakeshore and MacArthur, across the freeway from the Farmers Market and near the little Lakeview Library. It will be 25 feet from the children’s play area and will have a four-foot-highfence to keep the dogs in and give parents the choice of whether or not to let their children interact with the dogs . It will be enclosed by a vine covered fence and will provide separate space for large and small dogs. Like other Oakland dog parks, the Lakeview Dog Run near Lake Merritt will have ADA access, a double entry, and the Magic Can waste control system that eliminates close to 100% of garbage can odors.
Oakland has more than 100 parks and more than 1,000 acres of parkland but only five dog runs: three have been built in blighted areas near the freeway, one is on a dirt parking lot in Joaquin Miller Park, and one is between downtown and West Oakland. San Francisco lists 19 off-leash areas, Vancouver has 33 dog play areas, and Berkeley has almost 20 acres off-leash and a dog-friendly policy in the parks.
Lake Merritt is the most densely populated part of Oakland but doesn’t have any legal space for off-leash dogs. All of Lake Merritt Park is banned to dogs, even if they are kept on-leash. Hundreds of people currently walk their dogs through Lake Merritt Park, even though it is illegal, and face fines of more than two hundred dollars. The dog park plan would not make it legal to be at the Lake with a dog. Instead it has located the dog run about a half mile away from the Lake. The creation of space that is safe, legal, and friendly is expected to draw in dog owners who currently use Lake Merritt Park illegally.
The “Big Vote Meeting” on May 2 will be a chance for dog owners to convince Planning Commissioners of the benefits of a dog run near Lake Merritt.The dog park will create a vital new neighborhood space on a corner that is seldom used because it is the part of Lakeview Park closest to the freeway on-ramp. Other benefits of the dog park include more “eyes on the park.” well-socialized dogs, and the opportunity for families with dogs to use the park. In addition, many dog owners who currently drive to dog parks in Berkeley or Alameda will stay in their own neighborhood and walk to the park, cutting down on carbon emissions.
Every dog lover who lives or works in Oakland is encouraged to attend the meeting and speak out.
Emily Rosenberg is co-founder of ODOG, the Oakland Dog Owners Group, which has worked for more than a decade to create and preserve off-leash space and to make Oakland a dog-friendly city. To learn how you can get involved, visit odogparks.org.