Newman officials to hear dog park plan

NEWMAN -- Dog park advocates plan to bring their bark to city officials tonight in the form of a presentation about setting aside a place where their pets can run free.

Dog parks, or off-leash parks, typically are plots of land surrounded by a fence, with some shade trees, benches and water. They allow dogs to run around and play without the risk of traffic.

Newman resident Marlena Cardinal is spearheading the effort to bring a dog park to her hometown.

Cardinal founded Friends for Sophia's Dog Park, a nonprofit public charity named in honor of her yellow lab mix, Queen Sophia, who died after being hit by a car in 2004. She's been waging campaigns since to open dog parks in Stanislaus County and several cities in the valley, including Turlock, Modesto and Ripon.

Cardinal said her original goal when forming Friends for Sophia's Dog Park was to bring a dog park to the West Side. Tonight, she will get her first chance to address the Newman Parks and Recreation Commission, along with several other dog park supporters, about a dog park for Newman.

She hopes the city will consider incorporating a park into its planned aquatic center complex, which is slated to open in 2009. If that's not feasible, Cardinal has other sites in mind.

"Dog parks are wonderful for the dogs," she said. "It makes them better citizens. Dogs end up in shelters because they haven't been socialized with other people or dogs. This makes them healthier and happier citizens."

The parks aren't just for the dogs, she said. They also raise property values and give their owners a place to socialize with other animal lovers, Cardinal said.

Cardinal takes her three dogs to Patterson's dog park. It opened three years ago and is popular among West Side residents, said Patterson Parks and Recreation Director Adrienne Chaney.

The city operates the Ward Avenue park at an "extremely minimal" cost, Chaney said. The fencing was built by donated labor from the Eagle Scouts, and the city's parks department handles the maintenance and doggie bags.

Chaney plans to speak at the meeting about Patterson's experience in running a dog park. She said she would like to see a dog park in every new subdivision.

"They're building a lot of tract housing with small postage-stamped size yards, but people still have big dogs," she said. "They need a place to run and exercise."

The Newman Parks and Recreation Commission will hold its meeting tonight at 7 in the City Council chambers, 1200 Main St.

On the Net:

Friends for Sophia's Dog Park, www.westsidedogpark.com.

Bee staff writer Christina Salerno can be reached at csalerno@modbee.com or 238-4574.