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Vinewood park patrons incensed over dog trespassing fines

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Posted: Friday, January 24, 2003 10:00 pm

All that stands between Vinewood Dog Park users and a $290 fine is a 14-by-20-inch metal sign on a pole in the middle of a field.

Although it's the sign patrons asked the city for, they still don't think it's big enough to deter crossing into non-permitted territory.

And it's certainly not big enough to warrant the citations being handed out, they say.

In the meantime, patrons are rallying for enlarging the park and having a fence installed. They plan to take their petition to the Parks and Recreation Commission on Feb. 4.

While the new do-not-pass signs went up late last year - essentially cutting the dog park in half - some are still not clear where they and their off-leash dogs are allowed.

Those who have been ticketed are ticked.

In December, Jerry Reich and his miniature schnauzer Spencer were playing at the dog park as they do every week when the two found themselves in what Reich calls "the forbidden zone."

When a parks officer found his dog off-leash just past the sign dictating otherwise, Reich was hit with a $290 citation.

"I felt it was a little harsh, considering there is no barrier … and dogs can't read signs," he said. "I know the officer was just doing his job, but I think he used me as an example for everyone else. I'd just like to see the problem (at the park) resolved."

Earlier this month, the ticket was suspended and Reich instead received a warning and notice not to be caught again with the dog off-leash for a period of 12 months.

But Reich isn't the only one confused by the signage.

Signs explaining the rules and regulations are posted in various locations at Lodi's Vinewood dog park. (Jerry R. Tyson/News-Sentinel)

On a recent trip to the dog park, Diana Fischer, who has lived on Virginia Avenue for 15 years, was told by a reporter that she would have been fined for having her dog Copper off leash in the area near the soccer fields.

When shown the sign, Fischer said she thought it just outlined park rules. In fact, she understood the map where dogs are permitted to include the soccer field, just not the baseball diamond.

"They ought to put a fence there, instead of a sign," she said. "We won't be back in that area."

While they are meeting regularly with representatives from the city parks department hoping to come to a consensus on various topics, dog park users are circulating a petition calling for the enlargement of the park.

What they want, specifically, is the city to remove the yellow soccer goal posts at the southwest corner of the field and install a fence on the berm between that field and the baseball diamond.

Debbie Smith, who signed the petition, said she favors expanding the dog park because she has a large dog and lives across the street from the park.

"I know the sports schedules, and it seems ludicrous that you have this on-going usage from dog park owners … and we're cramped when there's all this extra space being unused," she said. "There's plenty of acreage."

The petition is being circulated by park patron Jerry Perrin, who hopes to take it before Parks and Recreation Commissioners.

Commission Chairman Bob Johnson, who met once before with the group at a meeting, said the soccer field is used for practice and will likely not be removed. Instead, he could see installing a makeshift barrier where the sign is now located.

"Could it happen, sure. Will it happen? We don't know yet," Johnson said.

In October, when about 30 people with dogs in tow met with Parks Superintendent Steve Dutra at the dog park wanting an update on the planned memorial for a friend, park users also asked for an update on a request for additional signs telling users where they are permitted.

At that time, they also asked Dutra about erecting a fence to separate the area from nearby sports fields. But a fence costs money the Parks and Recreation Department doesn't have, he said at that time.

Dutra estimates the fence will cost $19,000 and will likely be delayed until the city's next two-year budget cycle. All projects must be approved first by the Parks and Recreation Commission before going to the City Council.

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