Growing Shade at the Dog Park

Written by Jill Turnbow

February 12, 2021

Carlos Mendoza works equipment at the Cambria Dog Park.Photo by Kitty Connolly

Just days before the rains hit the Central Coast, Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve (FFRP) planted 21 trees in and around Cambria’s dog park. The trees are meant to “spruce up” the park and eventually shade the area from the warm and dry summers.

“We received a grant from SLO County in order to complete the project,” said FFRP’s Executive Director Kitty Connolly. “It was a beautification grant and since we felt the East/West Ranch could not be more beautiful, we decided the dog park could use our help.”

Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve along with the CCSD oversee the dog park as well as the East/West Ranch. The Fiscalini family owned the property for almost a century, raising beef and dairy cattle, but sold it in 1979. By 2000, the ranch was preserved in perpetuity through public and private funding and is now one of Cambria’s most beloved green spaces, encompassing 437 acres.

The dog park is located on the east side of Hwy 101 off Burton Dr. on the old rodeo grounds. It is fenced and divided into two areas, one for larger dogs, and one for smaller ones. The newly planted trees are all native species, grown by the Manzanita Nursery in Solvang and Growing Grounds in San Luis Obispo. They include western sycamore, big leaf maple, California bay laurel, coast live oak and western redbud.

Of all the trees, only the redbud is not normally seen near the coast, but the dog park climate is ideal for its blooms. These trees will provide a natural windbreak as well as some much-needed shade. Currently fencing, gopher baskets, and chicken wire are in place to prevent the deer and gophers from destroying the group’s efforts.
The dog park was spared any flood damage in the recent storms.

“Getting them planted before the rain was fortunate, we didn’t have to water them in,” Connolly said.
The FFRP is a non-profit organization that oversees the preservation and protection of the former ranch. Volunteers maintain the walking trails, expand the Monterey pine forest and maintain the ranch’s beautiful benches. Talks have been on-going with the CCSD to make further improvements to the rodeo grounds near the dog park, such as adding public restrooms and a future sports field.

Currently, the organization’s volunteers are clearing away the storm damage on the East/West Ranch and opening the forest trails. The ranch features over a mile of coastal bluffs and over 8 miles of walking trails. The Monterey pine forest, a portion of the ranch, is one of only 5 remaining stands in the world.
To learn more about the FFRP or to donate to their future preservation projects, check out their website at You can even dedicate a tree as a family legacy. Details are on the website.

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