About two dozen dog and park lovers braved the rain Sunday for a protest over the lack of city care for the very dusty Dusty Rhodes dog park in Ocean Beach.
The dog park that is theoretically maintained by the city — which counts it as square footage toward meeting park space required for the Point Loma area — just had a sprouting of grass as a result of recent rains. The mix of sand, dirt and patches of grass is spattered with 50 small orange flags that mark where gophers have tunneled and left ankle twisting holes that aren’t easily seen.
“This was a complete sand lot until the rain,” said Dan Dennison, one of the protest organizers. “It’s been like that since last summer.”
The years-long drought prompted the city to cut off water for some dog parks, including the Morley Field dustbox, Nate’s Point at the west Laurel Street entrance to Balboa Park, and the dog park tucked in the pocket south of Mesa Community College. The city appears to have planted new grass at the Grape Street dog park.
Mike Ryan said the city decided that dog parks aren’t a good use of water, even as it continued to water turf at other parks with other uses. Now that the drought is over, park users say the city should renew its efforts to provide green turf – as it does at the big playing field immediately south of the two fenced areas.
“The dogs are getting so dirty that you have to give them a bath when you take them home,” he said. “That takes plenty of water.”
The dog park isn’t just for dogs, he points out.
“I’ve made a lot of friends here and I really enjoy coming,” he said. “If a meteor was going to hit the earth and end everything, most of us would tell you that we’d come over here because this is a very real and very good community of people.
The city has had to prioritize where water is used, and parks where people bring dogs aren’t on that list, Ryan said. Ball fields, soccer fields, skate parks and heavily used picnic areas continue to be watered.
“You can spin it any way you want,” he said. “The city has a responsibility to maintain ALL city parks.”
Ryan brought the 50 gopher-hole marking orange flags to the park at the intersection of Nimitz Boulevard and Point Loma Avenue after he took an odd tumble.
“I was sitting in a chair that fell backwards because of some gopher holes,” he said. “I was okay, but I could have been hurt.”
Ryan marked the gopher holes in the fenced area for small dogs before he ran out of flags.
Many of the holes are deep enough to catch a little dog’s entire leg, or a human up to the calf.
The city has paid out claims – and jury awards for claims it fought – over its failure to maintain city properties. In March, a man seriously injured when his bike got caught in a broken sidewalk in Del Cerro and he was thrown 28 feet won a $4.85 million award from a San Diego jury. In 2012, a Mission Hills man whose legs were crushed, leaving him unable to walk by a city tree that fell on him also won a $7.6 million verdict.
“Heaven help the city if someone breaks a leg here,” Ryan said. “They are well aware of the gopher holes.”