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You Ask: What's With All the Dog Issues at Memorial Park?

Several reports in the police bulletin about dog issues at Memorial Park have left some readers wondering: What's it all about?

[If you have  about a problem in Albany, send it in with "You Ask" in the subject line, and we'll do our best to dig up an answer. Your name will not be shared without permission.]

If you've been reading the , you may have noticed several calls to police asking them to enforce at Memorial Park. 

Several readers have asked: Why the sudden concern about enforcement? 

Earlier this month, the took a look at a fenced area in the northeast corner of , which many say has become Albany's de facto off-leash dog park. 

Last June, the City Council to make it easier to separate sports activities at the baseball fields from pet owners and their dogs.

Though the area was not specifically set aside for dogs, many say fencing off the space has led to a rise in popularity among dog owners from all over the area. Dozens of dogs, and their owners, often can be found in the space. 

This shift from what had been mostly a neighborhood resource to more of a regional attraction has brought with it a slew of problems, say some neighbors, including barking at all hours and parking shortages in front of their homes. 

Others cite litter, more frequent dog fights, owners yelling to stop dogs from fighting, unsightly grass and an overall deterioration of the space. 

About seven people, both frustrated neighbors and dog advocates, spoke to the Parks & Rec Commission about the issue on June 14.

Dog owners pleaded with commissioners not to take away the space, and brainstormed ways community members who use the area can help enforce rules and improve conditions. 

Said Recreation & Community Services Director Penelope Leach: "The question of the day is how can we maintain this as a multi-use area" given the volume and frequency of dogs on site. Leach said the field is "no longer safe to have as a space for other sports" due to patchy grass and divots in the ground. 

She said limiting the times and days dogs could be in the area was likely the solution, but added: "I don't know that we can do that. There will always be the problem we have here in Albany with enforcement.... We can't babysit that area."

Neighbors noted "huge changes" since the fence was installed. 

"We're at a point where, at least me, I'm ready to put the house up for sale.... The noise is unbelievable," said a woman who lives across the street. 

Some members of the panel and the public suggested that an active Friends-type organization composed of dog owners, similar to those that exist at places like Pt. Isabel, could perhaps address some of the issues head-on from a grassroots level. 

"It's clear they take pride in their parks," said Commissioner Heather Cunningham, "that people are holding other people accountable. There are clear expectations, and that may be part of what's missing. I'm not in favor of taking away places for dogs....but I want it to be accessible to everybody."

The commission didn't make a decision on the matter, but called it a "tough issue." 

Have you noticed changes in this area at Memorial Park? Do you have ideas for a solution? Tell us in the comments. 

Click the "Keep me posted" button below this story for an email update when we write about dog issues in Albany. See the .

If you have  about a problem in Albany, send it in with "You Ask" in the subject line, and we'll do our best to dig up an answer. Your name will not be shared without permission.

If there's something in this article you think , or if something else is amiss, call editor Emilie Raguso at 510-459-8325 or email her at albany@patch.com.

Jane Tierney June 27, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Thank you for adding necessary information by your comments!
Jane Tierney June 27, 2012 at 03:41 PM
I don't hear an excessive amount of noise coming from the park. The new hours posted prohibit people from using the park from 4pm - 7pm, exactly at the time most working folks might want to bring their dogs, who have been pent up all day. Whether the city can resolve this to anyone's satisfaction, it is clear there is an appalling lack of facilities for the area dog owners nearby, at least those who want to follow the leash laws and not let their dogs run amok. If neighbors are content with noise and parking excesses from boom boxes and sports fans, it hardly seems fair to single out dog owners when complaining. Of course dog owners must be responsible. But I haven't seen any issues that warrant intervention.
Kristin Pankonin June 27, 2012 at 04:38 PM
I am a regular visitor to this park, and I honestly can't imagine what these complaints are about. I've been to several local dog parks, and this is by far the most civilized. People socialize easily, and all the dogs are well-behaved and supervised by their owners. I've only seen one or two instances of barking or dog-on-dog agression, and they have been addressed promptly. Anyone who lives across the street from a park/high school athletic field/community center/pool combination obviously is going to be exposed to noise occasionallly. And as for parking, I've never had to park more than a half block from the entrance to the park. Albany powers-that-be: please don't let the voices of a few shut down this valuable neighborhood gathering place. I'm sure we can work together to find solutions to specific problems.
dogsinthegarden June 27, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Just want to point out that dog parks are all-age, all-ability inclusive communities. Play fields by function exclude those with disabilities and elders who can no longer play the few allowable sports (baseball, soccer) allowed. City council members and neighbors should consider carefully if they really want to attack, rather than support, one of the few all-age/all-ability inclusive communities functioning within Albany parks. (TONS of research on this in medical, sociology, psychology and veterinary medicine, by the way.)
Matt Stark June 27, 2012 at 07:14 PM
My wife and I just moved to Albany and walk by this park often and have never witnessed such problems. We only go in the evenings, but have never observed excessive noise, over-crowding, or yelling. The park being here is a huge reason we are now looking into getting a dog. It would be a shame to take it away. I agree with the comments of Tatter Salad above. I cannot say these things never happen, but it would be irresponsible to take away a dog park based on 1-2 people, dogs, and/or incidents.
Anne Agard June 27, 2012 at 07:25 PM
I sometimes walk my tiny toy dog on leash at Memorial Park, and I was so happy when the dog park area was fenced off, because now I don't have to worry about running interference between my little guy and all the large, unleashed dogs. Now, they can use the dog park and we can walk around safely outside. I have not noticed any prolonged or excessive barking. A dog park is not the kind of setting in which dogs do this--it's a behavior that is almost always associated with being left alone. I would agree that the increased traffic and activity around the park probably has more to do with the new swimming complex than anything. I also think that some people have trouble accepting that fact that when you live in a city, you only own the parking places on your own property.
Anne Agard June 27, 2012 at 07:26 PM
p.s.--it would actually be great to have a separate fenced dog park for small dogs (25 pounds and under is the usual designation.)
Ellen June 27, 2012 at 11:10 PM
Ohlone Park in Berkeley is one of the oldest dog parks in the country. I don't recommend all of their solutions (wood chips, etc.) but they have have use/noise restrictions and have worked with sometimes fussy (BERKELEY) neighbors who yes, live across from an active park/athletic/playground area but are strangely only bothered by the presence of people with dogs. I take Albany rec dog-activity classes at Memorial Park and appreciate anything that provides a safe boundary between dogs. traffic -- and small children (who often frighten dogs but are often brought in to watch them, by their parents ). Dog parks increase pedestrian traffic and neighborhood safety, not to mention physical and emotional health and well-being. I suspect people who bring their dogs over are more likely walking than driving. How about some scientific data?
Sharon Bonnifield June 28, 2012 at 02:17 AM
Memorial Park needs to let dogs have the fenced area. It does not stop the ball games., The fence does not make it hard for players to play as there is a fence around the whole field. Let the dogs be there. They are not as noisy as the ball players.
Jane Tierney June 28, 2012 at 05:31 AM
I've seen that park and it is lovely. As I recall, there is a separate partition for small dogs, under 20 lbs. This is really great for some dogs, as the bigger dogs just don't know how big or strong they are and don't play gently with the smaller dogs. This way, the smaller critters can get a workout with each other.
janet June 28, 2012 at 03:23 PM
"which many say has become Albany's de facto off-leash dog park"? There is a sign on this little fenced-off area about dog use rules and dog hours, it was separated from the ball field so that dogs wouldn't interfere with play, and there are garbage cans especially for dog waste. Am I the only one that understood that THE PLAN was that this was to be a little dog park? I walk my dogs by there almost every evening, and it always looks completely peaceful, dogs having fun, people interacting. I only ever see a few dogs at a time, and I have never heard excessive barking or seen a crowd. In fact, I suspect that there were more people and dogs frequenting the park when they had use of the whole area (before the fence was put up), because there was more space. I don't take my dogs there anymore because they don't want to run in the smaller space. I wonder how much of this is a "not in my backyard" sort of attitude?
Emilie Raguso June 28, 2012 at 03:58 PM
What I understood from the meeting was that this area was not planned to be set aside only for dogs and their owners. Other users were also supposed to be able to use the space, and it sounds like that has become less possible as popularity increases. (That was what I heard folks to be saying.) What's your sense about other types of users in the space?
Tatter Salad June 28, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Yes Emilie, and it IS shared by the 'dogsters.' This has become the area other (young) base ball tossers come, or soccer ball kickers come, and I've seen them encouraged to do so. Also, more importantly from my view: I have seen 8-12 year olds who don't have pets, or are afraid of dogs and have been coaxed into the dog area, and make furry friends. They are taught how to correctly 'read,' and introduce themselves to doogies. This has had to increase over the past two months because, as said above: the main field is LOCKED DOWN TIGHT dispite the Park Commissions expression to the contrary. Also, at night, postings (such as the Dog-Commision meeting on July 12 ) are mysteriously removed over-night, rolls of (voluntarily supplied) pooper-bags are taken, and water bowls stolen. (It was observed that young adult living on Carmel across from the dog-park was seen doing this.) Now, even the nearby water fountain is shut-off. There are areas where there has been NO WATER provided to the grass since the last rain, hence: poor condition, and the soccer-ball kickers tend to avoid the area now that there's no grass in 25% of it. There has never been an attempt to reseed or hose-water, or provide access to a faucet in this area since the fence was installed.
Our Best Friends June 28, 2012 at 11:28 PM
I hope we get to the bottom of the problem soon so the atmosphere of animosity can go away. Its usually such a lovely/friendly place to be. so much community activity in the different park areas for all ages and abilities. I have to admit the small fenced park does look shabby compared to the rest of the park because of the lack of water and lawn care. Aside from that, the dog people take excellent care to keep things cleaned up and under control. Please stop by and see for yourself!
Linda Yoshikawa June 29, 2012 at 02:56 AM
This is not a Dog Park but it was made to look that way. Little League has long wanted dogs off Memorial Field for poop and other reasons. At the same time, the partition was good for people with dogs who wanted access when ballgames were played. But the idea was that when there were no games or other use-permitted activity, the main field would be open. But the main field is ALWAYS locked. Why? The city of Albany pays Little League to maintain the grass and it does a great job. The coaches spend a lot of their own time & money for its upkeep. Thus, Little League is very proprietary about the perfection of that grass and keeps the gates locked. If you ask Albany Parks & Rec Director Penelope Leach about the locked gates, she'll say that is not supposed to happen but it continues to happen. So the question is, Albany residents: How do you feel about paying taxes for a large open field that you can rarely--wait, I'll venture to say in the last year, NEVER--use for yourselves because it is always locked? And if you're an Albany dog owner, how do you feel about being relegated to a very small area with the promise of being able to use the big field when games weren't played and now being ticketed or perhaps eventually booted off the field entirely?
lupe miller June 29, 2012 at 03:45 AM
I have to weigh in here. Since you asked, Joey, here is how I feel, and have always felt in my many years in Albany. I own a dog, but I do not think mixing the Memorial Park field with dogs is a good idea. For sanitary reasons, primarily. There were many gross incidents when dogs ran freely there, especially with high school soccer, baseball and other sports players. Albany desperately needed a designated dog park, for the same reasons most cities have them. Waste, occasional behavioral issues, and the like. The small fenced area was meant as a compromise, I thought. And I think it works as this. It should become a designated dog park, with maybe a different surface grass, or different landscaping; dogs shouldn't be allowed in the other parts of the field but humans should (when games aren't in session), and neighbors should deal. As others have said - they did choose to live next to a multi-use park as well as a large school.
Sharon Bonnifield June 29, 2012 at 04:18 AM
I hate payi8ng taxes on a field that can not be use all the time. The dogs need a place as well as the sprts kids. Leave the dog fenced area for the dogs and open the field to sports. Real dog owners are careful. also there is wid; to pick up after their dogs. Kids and parents made a mess on the ball field . Also there is wild life that leave messes behind. Stop blaming the dogs,
lupe miller June 29, 2012 at 01:16 PM
I am a responsible dog owner and have been for many many years. I carry and use bags wherever she and I go. This means I know that sometimes it's simply impossible to get dog waste off of grass. It sticks, clumps, pools. I also know, as a parent, children and youth who walk dogs are sometimes too self-conscious to pick up waste, and look the other way. My old child takes this attitude. I am working on it. Playing fields and dogs do not mix. This is why most 21st Century communities in the US have designated dog parks, where dogs and dog owners are welcome, loved, planned for, and playing fields are for humans, who don't have these public waste issues. Food wrappers is a different matter.
Linda Yoshikawa June 29, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Recognizing the small area as an official Dog Park will require community organizing, sitting down with neighbors to address their concerns, probably relinquishing access rights to the main field (Little League should support this!), fundraising to help with upkeep, pitching the case for using some Measure WW funds, and talking to our City Councilmembers. The issue of dogs at Memorial Field has been ongoing for 15 years, if not more. This is a land-use issue with conflicts, but they are surmountable. Organize! Organize! Organize! Do not think we can simply show up at a Parks & Rec or City Council meetings and plead our case. The politics of this is complicated here in Albany because it has been slow to recognize that a Dog Park is for humans with dogs, not just dogs. Sure, dogs get to frisk freely, but the people also interact with each other, bonds are created and there's a feeling of community. ORGANIZE!
Karen June 29, 2012 at 06:51 PM
I am an Albany resident who walks a Berkeley dog (my friends) since my dog died. I love this park and can't understand why it's do difficult to set aside a small space for dogs. I've talked to many people who would love to see a separate small dog enclosure in that space. There's plenty of room. The kids get the large field and good! They should. However, dog owners need a place too and this park is perfect. Vallejo, Pinole, Fremont and Benicia have wonderful examples of dog enclosures near playgrounds or sports fields and I see no reason for Albany not to follow suit. I frequently walk to this park, but when I do drive there's always a spot right near the entrance. I would think the 4-10 dogs in the park contribute less to noise and parking issues than do the 10+ kids (plus parents) in the park and the multitudes at the tennis courts and pool. Thanks for the article Emilie!
Koji Maru June 29, 2012 at 08:15 PM
To the person who took the water bowl from Field B, please return it immediately. If the sight of the bowl offended you so much, all you had to do was ask us to move it to another spot in the park. I installed it so that it was easily movable (as you well know). Removing the water bowl that all the dogs needed and used was a selfish and childish act. To deprive dogs of water during these hot summer days is animal cruelty. Is this the "respectful compromise" that the neighbors and dog owners are supposed to be trying to achieve?
Tatter Salad June 29, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Hi Koji, I'm told (by friendly neighbors) that a young adult living immediately opposite Park B, and almost directly across from the water bowl(s) has been seen late at night in the Park area, but it is unknown if he removed that bowl specifically. Sometimes it's the act of 'one person' that shadows the character of others, so we must be careful. For instance, there is 'one' German Sheppard (large puppy class) owner that squeezes his (sometimes loud barking) dog into Field A (at the gate near the Gym) in the late evenings; - how he cleans up after his dog when he can neither see him or enter the yard himself, is beyond me. For all our sake, I hope this dog owner cleans up his act.
Winifred Owen June 29, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Please be advised that City personnel remove all items left in the dog park area. At the Parks and Recreation Meeting a couple weeks ago, a man mentioned that he had brought chairs and left them, and they subsequently disappeared. A Commissioner responded that chairs and other items are not allowed to remain in the area, and are routinely removed by City personnel.
Kristin Pankonin June 30, 2012 at 03:09 PM
So - does anyone know if there is a dog commission meeting on July 12 to discuss this issue? I did hear about this at the park last week, but can find no information on the city of Albany website. I heard that dog owners and advocates need to show up to present our point of view. If anyone has information on this meeting, time, place, etc, can you please let us all know?
Koji Maru June 30, 2012 at 11:13 PM
The Albany Parks & Rec. Commission is having it's next meeting on Thursday, July 12th starting at 7:30pm at the Albany City Hall. Beforehand at 6:30pm, they are having a walking tour of the proposed Pierce Street Park. Discussion about Field B is on the agenda so be sure to show up or else e-mail the Commission care of Penelope Leach , pleach@albanyca.org.
Sharon Bonnifield July 01, 2012 at 05:11 AM
Thanks Koji for the information on the meeting. Power to the dogs. Sharon
Tatter Salad July 02, 2012 at 04:39 AM
I seriously doubt that City paid grounds keepers removed a dog dish from the edge of the dog park. They don't have the time to remove the weeds in the same area, so I doubt that they would spend their time towards that end.
Winifred Owen July 02, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Just repeating what we were told by a commissioner at the Parks & Rec meeting - that when City workers, who allegedly empty the trash can by the gate on a daily basis (well, almost), encounter various items (chairs were specifically mentioned) in that area, they are removed by those same workers. I cannot attest to each and every item that may go missing from there - just (again) passing along what we were told. And you are SOOOO right about the weeds. Does the City not own a weed whacker?
Jennifer Carlson July 12, 2012 at 01:34 AM
I use and enjoy the dog park, as is. I do not support blending it with the larger field because, while I am responsible and clean up after my dogs, I do not delude myself into thinking that is a universal concept. My dogs run like maniacs when there, playing freely with any other dogs who appear interested. We are not unusually noisy, nor do we abuse the surrounding area. Dogs need a place to run and get out energy and the average Albany home does not offer much in the way of yard space. Please don't take the dog park away. We appreciate it and respect the neighboring homes. In any location, there are certain types of external impact. Where I live, it's the sirens from the fire station and police station, in addition to people channeling their inner "Mario Andretti" down my residential street. But I accept this as a necessary inconvenience that comes with living in an urban environment.
Tatter Salad July 12, 2012 at 02:27 AM
THANK YOU Koji regarding the Albany Parks & Rec. Commission meeting on Thursday, July 12th starting at 7:30pm at the Albany City Hall! I hope the Committee is smart enough to dissuade the repetitiousness-nature of some dog owners, and the Comittee begins by acknowledging: Dog Owners have a place here, parking and noise has NOT been a problem, and water (for grass and dogs) has been withheld c/o persons and caretakers unknown.

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