By DONNA BETH WEILENMAN
MARTINEZ, Calif. – Martinez residents who want a say about establishing a dog park in this city may weigh in at two workshops, the first of which will be Wednesday, Dec. 9, at Martinez City Hall.
City employees will present an overview of what has happened since the suggestion to build a dog park was made a dozen years ago.
Movement on the topic stalled until a grassroots group began using social media to gather supporters for a local park so they don’t have to travel to Pleasant Hill or Walnut Creek to give their pets a safe place to play.
“We are glad we are moving forward toward getting a dog park built in Martinez,” said Rick Marazzani, who recently adopted a rescued dog and has been one of several Martinez residents who’ve spoken in favor of the park.
He said the city “has tarried on building a dog park for 12 years.”
Those interested in getting the park back on the city’s front burner formed an ad-hoc group online, then “caught the ear” of two members of the City Council, Debbie McKillop and AnaMarie Avila Farias, he said.
“Councilmember McKillop campaigned on building a dog park, and Councilmember Avila Farias immediately saw the health and safety benefits of a dog park,” he said. “They both have been encouraging.”
From there, residents spoke during the public participation portion of council meetings, often employing a “Who let the dogs out?” rallying cry.
The council referred the topic to the Parks, Recreation, Marina and Cultural Commission, which formed a dog park subcommittee.
“City staff and committees have kept things moving along, and we are doing things properly, carefully and at a deliberate pace to make sure the dog park has the widest and deepest support in the community,” Marazzani said, admitting there are “lots of hoops to jump through” as the matter goes through the city process.
“I hope we have as many hoops and other play equipment for the dogs to play on when the park gets built!” he quipped.
However, Marazanni acknowledged the park supporters have learned that putting a request before the City Council means taking “lots of steps” and following a list of procedures.
“But things eventually get moving in government,” he said. “For our project to be held up from seeing a council vote, it would take collusion or incompetence, and we have not been held up yet. Our group’s hard work, vigilance and openness is keeping the project on the radar and moving ahead.”
The two workshops are important elements to that process, Marazzani said. To that end, park promotors have been employing Facebook and other online postings, flyers throughout the city and pamphlets to spread the word about the workshops.
This first workshop will also give interested individuals a chance to talk about prospective sites and what city employees have called dog park basics.
“The city workshops will help the city staff and committees learn what citizens want from a dog park,” Marazzani said.
Both workshops are opportunities “to discuss ideas” and to assure that “all understand the best practices involved in building a dog park,” he said.
He said the grassroots group has offered the city a proposal that combines background developed in the past by city staff as well as statistics and facts from what he called “reputable sources” on the benefits of local dog parks.
“Dog parks are known entities, and our group has brought together lots of research and data,” Marazzani said.
“Our proposal also looked at locations previously rejected by the city, and proposed three new downtown locations. We think a downtown dog park will best serve the citizens and the local economy,” he said.
The first dog park workshop will take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9, in Council Chambers at City Hall, 525 Henrietta St., Martinez.
The second workshop, during which additional background information, an evaluation of optional sites and cost and maintenance involved in having a dog park will be presented, will start at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 13, 2016, in the same room.