2014-11-26 / Community

Park district adds off-leash areas

Mini dog parks coming next year
By Becca Whitnall

Thousand Oaks dog owners will soon have three new places where their canines can legally run free.

At its Nov. 20 meeting, the Conejo Recreation and Park District board of directors voted 4-0 (chair Joe Gibson was absent) to convert portions of three parks—Kimber, Walnut Grove and Estella—into fenced-in, offleash dog areas for a six-month trial period.

A look at the change in demographics in the Conejo Valley would explain why more dog parks are needed in the area, said Monica Nolan, president of a nonprofit organization recently formed to promote the off-leash areas and positive canine-human interaction in T.O. Currently the city has just one dog park.

“As you know, the demographics of the Conejo have been changing over the last 20 years,” Nolan told the board. “Today less than one-third of the households have someone under the age 18 living in them; yet now at least two-thirds of the households report having at least one dog.”

The benefits of local off-leash dog areas will go beyond just convenience, according to community member Laura Beth Heisen.

“Because the neighborhood OLAs (off-leash areas) will serve smaller populations, the neighborhood OLA will be an outstanding way to meet people and become friends with your own neighbors, people you might not otherwise ever meet,” she said at the meeting.

The dog parks will help keep unleashed dogs off the streets, thereby increasing safety as well, she said.

“The OLAs provide exercise, fun and friendship. That’s what CRPD is about, so it’s a win-winwin idea that we already know from the big (dog park) experience people in the Conejo Valley love,” Heisen said.

The district expects to begin work on the mini dog parks early next year. The areas are expected to be open by February. The total cost is estimated at $8,000.

In addition to hosting multiple community meetings to get resident input, the district also surveyed park use over the summer at each of the sites being considered, CRPD park planner Denise Johns told the board.

“Generally, we wanted to know how people behave at our parks,” she said.

The district was interested, for example, in the percentage of owners who clean up after their animals. The researchers also measured noise levels and recorded what people who parked at the park came to do.

The district plans to perform the same tests six months after the off-leash areas have opened and compare observations and figures.

Nolan’s nonprofit was formed in conjunction with the off-leash areas.

The Conejo Off Leash Area Friends, or COLAF, group was formed as a result of the community input meetings.

Among the organization’s priorities is starting an off-leash ambassador program wherein interested park users serve as stewards to help dog owners understand the rules and etiquette at the park. They would report maintenance issues to the district and would help restock dispensers that hold bags to collect dog waste.

In order to do that, the organization needs volunteers who can serve as a friendly face at the park, Nolan said after the meeting.

Anyone interested in joining COLAF and volunteering can email Nolan at conejofriends@gmail.com.

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