Dogs should be allowed in 10 more San Clemente Parks, but the city shouldn't have to pay for poop bag dispensers.
That's the recommendation of the Beaches, Parks and Recreation Commission, which voted in favor of permitting expanding the roaming area of local canines in a 5-2 Tuesday night vote.
Dog feces were thoroughly dicussed during a large portion of the meeting, which kicked off with a screening of a "Pick Up the Poop" public service announcement that will air on the city public-access channel and on screens around city facilities.
More extensive debate surrounded the issue of allowing dogs into local parks. A city plan would allow leashed dogs in 12 parks throughout the city and the Community Center lawn. Two of the parks -- Mira Costa and Verde parks -- already allow dogs.
Part of the plan encourages dog owners to take responsibility for their dogs' droppings. Canine lovers would be expected to bring their own bags, rather than have them provided at the parks, and pressure peers to pick up after their dogs as well.
"I would suggest that our community is a very lax [dog poop] culture," said Beaches, Parks and Recreation Director Sharon Heider. "People say all the time, 'my dog is like my child.' Well, we're not providing diapers for your child at the community center."
Commissioner Tom Wicks, however, said policy on adding dispensers should be consistent throughout dog-friendly parkland. (Dispensers are already available on the beach trail.)
Ultimately the commission made no recommendation on the poop bags.
Some commissioners said the list of parks should be amended, citing crowded Max Berg Plaza Park and parks with sports fields. All the parks were approved, with the caveat that dogs would not be allowed on sports fields.
At least one commissioner was vehemently opposed to the broad expansion, saying the expansion should be a pilot program of adding dog access to two or three more parks only.
"I think this is way too aggressive for us to put 10 parks out there," said Commissioner Eric Swartz. "I think of all the children who are going to be displaced because of these dogs. If you think people are going to keep their dogs on a leash and pick up all their poop, you're delusional."
Commissioner Bill Thomas, however, pointed out that the issue has been under discussion by the commission for about a decade with little action taken.
"This is 10 years too late," Thomas said. "We need places for these dogs."
Swartz and Wicks opposed permitting dogs access to the parks.
Though the San Clemente City Council still has to approve the measure, the Beaches, Parks and Recreation Commission recommended it allows dog access to the following parks:
- Bonito Canyon Bicentennial Park
- Leslie Park
- Max Berg Plaza Park
- Marblehead Inland Park
- Mira Costa Park (dogs currently allowed)
- Parque del Mar (excluding Park Semper Fi area)
- Rancho San Clemente Park
- San Luis Rey Park
- Talega Park
- Tierra Grande Park
- Verde Park (dogs currently allowed)
The San Clemente City Council shot down in spring , but council members threw them a bone
Also at the meeting, the commission advised the city to raise the fines for leaving dog droppings on the ground from $50 to $250, equal to fines for barking dog offenses.