New Ward Canyon dog park not mutt-tough?

Complaints about bark ground cover causing splinters

Ward Canyon dog park user: "We come here a lot and there's never been a problem."
  • Ward Canyon dog park user: "We come here a lot and there's never been a problem."

Normal Heights and Kensington dog owners took their concerns over the new Ward Canyon–adjacent dog park to the Adams Avenue Recreation Council last week (May 25).

The rec council took up the matter in response to a series of exchanges on Nextdoor.com, where people complained about the dog park, championed by Normal Heights community groups and councilmember Todd Gloria.

No one from Gloria's office attended the meeting, but Jeff Goldstein did, bringing pictures of injuries to his dog's paws from running on the ground cover of bark at the park at the southeast edge of Ward Canyon.

"The bark is pretty chunky — several other people said they had to get splinters taken out of paws," Goldstein said, noting he spent more than $200 at the veterinarian for the injuries. "It sounded to me that I wasn't alone in this." Goldstein said he wants to help improve the park for dogs, and he isn't asking for anything from the city.

Another dog owner, who declined to be identified, said she took her dog to the park a couple of times but now goes elsewhere. "I have a little dog and he doesn't like the bark. He can't run. He can't move. So I don't take him there," she said. "In any other environment he will be a playful dog."

City parks department recreation center director Michelle Chicarelli defended the bark and suggested to Goldstein that he could toughen his dog's paws by walking on asphalt.

"The wood has actually been through a tumbler four times. It was sterilized and tumbled four times," Chicarelli said, noting she takes her dog there. "The large pieces will settle...if you just go out and stomp on it, it will settle."

Rec council chair David Rodger and councilmember Bob Keiser said they were frustrated by the criticism and complained that only a few people showed up for the meeting.

"What was really disappointing is that no one was here for the hearings," Rodger said. "You can basically have five or six people who can create a massive controversy when it's just sensationalism."

The park was created as a temporary measure — for about five years — and officially opened in February.

Despite a report last year that stated $22,000 had been appropriated for the park, according to Rodger, the city authorized about $100,000 for the park and the money is spent. The sterile, tumbled bark cost about $10,000 of that, he said. The choice in ground cover grew out of neighbors' concerns over dust and smells traveling into their homes.

"We gave the neighbors just about everything they asked for," Keiser said. "The ground cover was very expensive."

It also seems to be the problem, a third dog owner said. She and Goldstein proposed raking the bark aside to see if that would solve the problems with dogs' paws being injured.

"If that works, we're fine; if not, we can put it back," she said.

But Chicarelli nixed the idea, saying the wood chips just need to settle.

Meanwhile, Rodger grilled Goldstein about comments on a chat-board, where other people complained about similar injuries to their dogs.

"I'm here because I want to help make this better," Goldstein said. "But in the meantime, my dogs and I go to a different park where they won't get hurt."

Despite concerns from some users, plenty of people use the dog park without complaint — except some grousing over the lack of water. On Tuesday (May 31), five dogs played rambunctiously on the big-dog side while more romped through the small-dog area.

"Not everything works for everyone," said Parker's owner while Parker thrashed with the Dude. "We come here a lot and there's never been a problem."

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Maybe Michelle Chicarelli should proceed with her suggestion to go out and stomp on the bark ground cover to help it settle. Maybe if she does it while barefoot, she can get a better feel on whether she has stomped out all the splinters.

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