The Normal Heights Community Association is leading a new effort to bring a bona fide dog park to mid-city. The group is set to launch a public relations campaign in hopes of convincing elected officials to procure funding for the long-planned redevelopment of Ward Canyon Neighborhood Park located on Adams Avenue between the border of Kensington and Normal Heights.
In 2013, the city's Parks and Recreation Department approved a "general development plan" for Ward Canyon Neighborhood Park. The proposed development includes construction of a 24,000-square-foot dog park, community center, full-size basketball and volleyball courts, a new parking lot, and community garden.
Community groups including the Adams Avenue Business Association, Normal Heights Community Association, and the Normal Heights planning group, have all jumped onboard. Councilmember Todd Gloria, who represents several mid-city communities, has also shown support for the project.
While little doubt exists as to whether neighboring community supports a new dog park, finding the needed funding to renovate the existing park is the difficult part.
"Yes, councilmember Gloria supports this," writes Katie Keach, Gloria's deputy chief of staff. "City council approved the 500 percent increase in fees for mid-city parks and facilities, via the update of the community Public Facilities Financing Plan, in June 2014. That was a great step forward, but project funding is still necessary."
The general development plan calls for rerouting the southbound Interstate 15 freeway ramps as well as tearing up 18 parking spaces to make room for the dog park.
According to Gloria's office, the cost to redevelop the park will cost over $7.5 million. The first phase, which includes construction of the dog park, freeway ramps, and community garden, is more than half, or $3.9 million.
Ron Ferrero, president of the Normal Heights Community Association, says that the Ward Canyon dog park would serve Normal Heights, City Heights, Kensington, Talmadge, and other communities. The communities are currently underserved in regards to dog parks, as well as overall park space.
By Ferrero's count, there are 9,882 licensed dogs in the four zip codes that surround the park, a total of 13 percent of all registered dogs in the City of San Diego. Aside from the handful of joint-use fields at nearby elementary schools, dog owners' only other option is to drive to Morley Field or South Park to let their dogs loose.
"The joint-use fields at Adams Avenue Elementary and Franklin Elementary just aren't enough for kids, parents, as well as dog owners to use. We've heard some complaints from parents about unclean fields and loose dogs. Dog owners just don't have any other options," Ferrero told the Reader during a January 20 phone interview.
Ferrero and the Normal Heights Community Association are planning to hold a neighborhood block party on February 15 to help try and gain public support.
The party will feature live music and an opportunity to adopt pets from the San Diego Humane Society. Councilmember Gloria plans to speak at the event.
On January 21, he confirmed his support for Ward Canyon Neighborhood Park and said he will be pushing for startup funding to get the project off the ground.
“Ward Canyon Neighborhood Park is the top priority for the Normal Heights community. I am advocating $1.2 million be allocated to design Phase 1 of the project in next year’s budget to get it moving forward."