Cayucos Dog Park- From Humble Beginnings and Humble Still By Debbie Black

Written by Estero Bay News

December 16, 2021

The proposed structure at the Cayucos Dog Park.

If El Chorro Dog Park is the Great Dane of dog parks, and Del Mar is the lofty poodle, and Vineyard is the highly groomed and glamorously adorned Best in Show, then Cayucos Dog Park would be the scrappy little good-natured mutt that cheerfully greets everyone and offers to share its well-loved toys.

No longer a pup, Cayucos Dog Park turned 10 last year. The pandemic, that unfortunately precluded any birthday celebration, drove a record number of people and dogs to the park — a safe place for both to burn off cabin fever.

There would be no Cayucos Dog Park were it not for a quiet, dedicated community volunteer named Donna Dawson. In 2009, she was asked to shepherd along the nascent idea of building a dog park at the yet-to-be-built Norma Rosa Park near the cemetery (and she didn’t even have a dog). 

After convincing County Parks to shoehorn the diminutive dog park into the existing plans, Donna set about garnering funds and labor. Help came from all directions, including raffles, rummage sales, private donations and a Community Projects Grant from the county. By May 2010, Cayucos had its fenced dog park welcoming dogs and their people from the entire Estero Bay community, as well as our many visitors.

The third canopy wrecked by the wind at the 
Cayucos Dog Park.

The term “grassroots” couldn’t be more applicable than in the case of the Cayucos Dog Park. The park is run completely by volunteers, and is currently administered by Donna Dawson, Claire Townsley and this writer with a grateful shout-out to the men in our families who respond to emergency repairs with continued good nature. It operates solely on donations, both monetary and in-kind, including the much-appreciated loads of chipped bark delivered by County Public Works and coordinated by Supervising Park Ranger Lasca Gaylord. Ongoing expenses include Mutt Mitt dog waste bags, repairs, maintenance and insurance. Since there’s no water onsite for thirsty dogs, volunteers have diligently brought water from home for eleven years. Some sign up for a month, checking the water buckets about once a week. Others simply bring a gallon to contribute whenever they visit.

Throughout the years, volunteers have planted, watered and maintained the landscaping around the park. Young trees will someday provide needed shade. In the meantime, a community member donated a 10×20 pop-up structure. It was well used for several years until offshore winds recently shredded its third replacement canopy, and the metal structure succumbed to coastal rust. The time has come for a more permanent solution.

Enter more volunteers. My husband, Garth (Kornreich), has donated his architectural services to design a wooden structure with sturdy replaceable canopies of nursery-grade shade cloth. He’s in the midst of processing the project through County Parks, Planning and Building departments. Walter Cerny of WC Engineering donated his engineering services for the structural calculations. Hayward Lumber has offered a lumber discount. Thank you all!

This feels like a good old-fashioned barn raising, coastal style. Yet, even with all this help, the preliminary cost estimate for the shade structure is still $5800. Tax-deductible donations of any amount are greatly appreciated, payable to SLOPOST-CDP (mention that it’s for the shade structure), and can be mailed to Donna Dawson at 2709 Orville Ave, Cayucos, 93430. Donor plaques are available for donations of $100 or more (give us your contact information). We can’t thank you enough.

This sturdy, dependable little dog park belongs to our community whose ongoing support will ensure its future. It’ll continue to be a favorite gathering spot for well-behaved dogs and their people.

You and your pup can reach Cayucos Dog Park by taking Highway 1 to Cayucos, exiting at Ocean Blvd (just north of Old Creek Road exit). Turn left toward the cemetery.

Come join us. We’ll be the ones with the exuberant golden retriever fixated on her favorite tennis ball.  Yep, that would be our Chase. And if you can, please bring a gallon of water.

Debbie Black is a member of The BookShelf Writers. To see more of her work, please visit

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