Did you know that in California, it’s against the law for a woman to drive in a housecoat? You’re also prohibited from shooting any sort of wild game from a moving car — unless it’s a whale. In San Francisco, “persons classified as ‘ugly’ may not walk down any street.” There are lots of silly or antiquated laws still on the books all across the country.
We’re no different here in Oakland. Almost every park in our lovely city is off-limits to dogs and their owners — even if that dog is on a leash. People up in the Oakland hills have some respite, since they have the lovely off-leash area in Joaquin Miller Park. ODOG worked tirelessly to build it six years ago. It’s been a big hit with the neighbors. Initially, the Woodminster Theater adjacent to the off leash area was worried it would smell and wouldn’t be properly maintained. But, last March Harriet Schlader, the director of shows at Woodminster sent an unsolicited letter of praise to ODOG for how “clean” and “odorless” it’s been.
If you live near Lake Merritt you’re somewhat out of luck, and probably unknowingly breaking the law (much like those aesthetically-challenged folks across the bay). You most likely enjoy walking with your family and your dog near the lake and/or in some of our beautiful parks. Who wouldn’t? Walking a dog in a park is a natural occurrence that happens millions of times a day all across the globe. It knows no racial, age, religious or socio-economic barrier. But, people can (and sometimes do) get ticketed when paws touch grass in Oakland.
ODOG has worked with city planners and politicians for years to identify a suitable space for dog owners in the area to legally exercise their dogs and socialize with other people. Initially, Splash Pad Park was identified as the place. But, a separate proposal to put a Farmer’s Market there won out. (Incidentally, some neighbors fought the Farmer’s Market with almost as much veracity as they’re now fighting this proposal; and by all measures the market is an unqualified success).
Now a decade later and after literally dozens of public forums, Lakeview Park has been found to be the only spot anywhere around that an off leash area would be even remotely possible. And, why not? Sports will still be able to be played there despite what our opposition claims (see picture in sidebar). The tot lot will remain untouched, and is over 25 feet away.
This spot we’re asking for is less than one half of one percent of the parkland in the area. It would be space where we won’t be forced to break the law. And, for those that don’t want dogs in the other 154.5 acres of park for whatever reason, a study by the University of California, Davis confirms the obvious: “The establishment of a well-maintained and responsibly-used dog park may actually improve the value of some neighborhoods. Another benefit for a well-located park, according to park managers, is that the availability of an off-leash park reduced the tendency for people to allow their dogs off-leash in areas where it is not legal.” This proposed off leash area is a win-win all around.