Place for Plants and Pooches Proposed

Written by Theresa-Marie Wilson

Theresa-Maria Wilson has been a journalist covering the North Coast and South County area for over 20 years. She is also the founder of Cat Noir CC and is currently working on a novel.

December 2, 2021

A Los Osos nonprofit group wants dogs and gardening included in plans to expand the Los Osos Community Park.
The park, located at 2180 Palisades Ave, is home to tennis and basketball courts, play and grassy areas, a skate park and the South Bay Community Center along with the Red Barn and Schoolhouse facilities. Across the street, the Los Osos Library plans to expand its footprint adding to the central gathering point in town.

Although the County and the Los Osos Community Service District agreed to terms allowing the CSD to construct and operate a dog park on the site between the tennis courts and the Catholic Church back in 2019, things were put on hold during the height of the pandemic. During that time, the Community Garden in Baywood, utilized by more than fifty gardeners with more on a waiting list, was closed following a land sale.

That’s when the Los Osos Valley Garden Club (LOVGC) stepped in, at the request of member Gary Katayama, to form a task force to explore the idea of both a dog park and community garden.

“It is not too late to revise the concept plan to include both a community garden and a dog park,” said Wendy McKeown, Los Osos Valley Garden Club president.

Current plans for the dog park along includes a 15,536 square foot area for large breed dogs and a 4, 419 sf area for small breed dogs, drinking water supplies, a bathroom and drought-tolerant vegetation.

“We envision the planned tennis courts could be the dog park, and the sand volleyball area could be the community garden,” said McKeown. “Of course, the size of each is something that would have to be planned.”

The issue is more complex than it appears with many people and government agencies involved in some way.
“County Parks proposed a two-phase project, the first phase included a tennis court, skate park, and other modifications to the park,” McKeown said. “The first phase is complete. The second phase consisted of three additional tennis courts, a sand volleyball court, picnic and barbecue areas, new play structures, etc. Phase 2 is proposed for the northern portion of the park and requires participation in the community-wide Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP).”

An HCP is a document required by the Endangered Species Act that guides protection and enhancements of habitat for threatened or endangered species — in this case that species is snails.

“The big challenge is the potential presence of Morro Shoulderband Snails which would likely prohibit development until the Los Osos Habitat Conservation Plan is completed,” McKeown said. “Any development would need a coastal development permit.”
Once the Habitat Conservation Plan is in place, McKeown says the following steps would need to be taken to change the master plan

to include a dog park area:
• Public input to consider the change
• General Plan conformity determination for the change
• Environmental determination for any development

“If the dog park moves forward, the park master plan will need to updated which will be done by the County not the CSD,” said CSD General Manager Ron Munds. “Any work on the park whether it is based on the current master plan or a revised plan with the dog park will have to wait until the HCP is approved by all the regulatory agencies and be implemented.”

The delay in creating the often requested dog park over the years is also related to the price tag that comes in at about $300,000, depending on amenities, for which there is no funding source nor an organization to keep the effort on track.

“The Park & Recreation Advisory Committee seems committed to at least finish a final design so funding sources, mainly grants, can be pursued to actually construct the project,” Munds said. “The other key thing that needs to happen is finding a non-profit or other entity to take on the operations and maintenance of the dog park. All the other dog parks in the county have such an organization.”
McKeown posted suggested modifications to the existing plans on Facebook. They include:

• Putting the dog park in front of the property (next to the street); the community garden in the back half of the property. This would minimize noise issues with the residential area in the back of the property.
• Create a drought tolerant native plant pollinator garden along the side (next to the church parking lot) and back of the property (next to the residential neighborhood).
• Add shade trees to the dog park area.
• Include a driveway leading to a small handicapped-parking area to the right of the dog park.
• Extend this driveway along the right side of the community garden area with a turnaround, for dropping off supplies needed by the gardeners.

Folks are asked to provide input on the dog park and community garden before the Dec. 14 meeting at losososcsd.org/los-osos-dog-park-concept-plan.
A few folks on social media suggested that the dog park and community garden should be separate projects.

McKeown and Katayama said that there are multiple reasons to move forward as a joint venture including that the area is SLO County Parks & Rec land that is already available for public use; the size of the property could accommodate both, it is centrally located near other community facilities, the children’s park is nearby offering added convenience for families, public parking and restrooms are available at the South Bay Community Center right next door and; a habitat conservation plan has already been submitted for the area.

The Los Osos CSD Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee will discuss the issue at its next meeting on December 14 at 5:30 p.m. at the Los Osos Community Services District Office Meeting Room, 2122 9th Street, Suite 106.
To find out more about the task force and keep up on the progress, send an email to info@lovgardenclub.org.

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