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Lodi dog park users seek answers from Parks Department on future projects

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Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2002 10:00 pm

About 30 people with dogs in tow gathered at Lodi's Vinewood dog park Wednesday afternoon wanting to know what the city's Parks and Recreation Department had done with the money they had donated three months ago to erect a memorial for a friend.

Parks Superintendent Steve Dutra came armed with an expense report showing just 61 cents remaining in the account after funds for the memorial's construction had been deducted.

The informal meeting, at the request of dog park users, was also to receive an update from Dutra on issues they last discussed together in April.

Dog owners want more signs telling users where they are permitted, a fence erected to separate the area from nearby sports fields and a water fountain for their four-legged friends.

If there was a lesson learned from the meeting, it was government moves slowly.

All three requests cost money the Parks and Recreation Department doesn't have, and even to get their requests heard before a deciding body can take months, if not years, Dutra said.

With the department's $75,000-a-year budget, projects are constantly competing for funds, said Dutra, who urged park users to donate more money or in-kind services.

"It doesn't seem to me we should have to come up with the money for these projects when we are all taxpayers," dog owner Sam Stoehr said.

Park users are also concerned with the lack of space being provided for their dogs. With new do-not-pass signs set to go up in the coming weeks, the dog park will essentially be cut in half. While the area has always been divided between dog exercise and sports areas for people, some are not clear where each is allowed.

Those leaving the designated area can be cited even now.

"There is just not enough room for our dogs," said Jerry Perrin, another dog park user. "How many soccer fields are there?"

"The soccer players say, 'Not enough,'" Dutra said.

The $19,000 fence dividing the park and a $6,500 drinking fountain will likely be delayed until the city's next two-year budget cycle, he said. All projects must be approved first by the Parks and Recreation Commission before going to the City Council.

In July, the council approved the bench for the late Sharon Wegener and her dog, Skippy, and directed it to be built at the dog park.

The project was paid for through donations by Wegener's friends. Vice Mayor Susan Hitchcock donated $150 to pay for the concrete pad.

Lynn Condley, who helped push the memorial's approval, said Dutra told her the bench would be installed in mid- to late-October.

The form was put up Tuesday and the concrete poured Wednesday. The plaque had also been placed.

"I'm confident that bench this time next week will be in use," Dutra said. "Thank goodness we're coming to the end of that project."

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