Mahatma Gandhi famously probably didn’t say that “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated,” according to at least one scholarly source. Whatever the case, it’s a noble thought and serves as a guidepost that Second District Councilmember Jeannine Pearce apparently agrees with. Pearce ran for her council position on a platform of issues that affect residents, the economy and the environment, and before her election in June 2016, she worked in a professional and volunteer capacity as an advocate for marginalized people. This included a term on the Long Beach Human Relations Committee.
One of Pearce’s latest projects is the planning and installation of a dog park in an underutilized area of Bixby Park. She and her staff have been canvassing residents in her district, particularly in the populous and packed Alamitos Beach neighborhood, to invite them to a community meeting to give their input on the exact location of the park and how it should be equipped. The meeting will take place Saturday, March 18, from noon to 1:30PM at the Bixby Park Community Center, located at 130 Cherry Avenue in Long Beach.
“We’ve had people saying on social media, where can I take my dog?” Pearce said. “We have a lot of renters and a large number of apartments, so people don’t have a space for their pets to be happy. You go outside and see dogs at yoga, dogs at the café—especially in my district, which is very walkable—but we don’t have a dog park that’s really accessible to the residents in Alamitos Beach. The closest ones are downtown.”
"I think it'll be wonderful!" exclaimed Second District resident Jill Morgan, who was walking her dogs Nala and Fred on Junipero Avenue next to Bixby Park. "Just stand here for 15 minutes and you'll see plenty of people walking dogs." Photo by Kate Karp.
Long Beach has 10 dedicated dog parks, including Rosie’s Dog Beach, in which supervised dogs can run off leash, chase balls around, socialize, and bark “Squirrel! Squirrel! Squirrel!” An organized weekly 30-minute beach cleanup run by Haute Dogs helps to keep the area clean and safe for both dogs and humans.
The first of the parks, Recreation Dog Park, was established in 1996 in Recreation Park in East Long Beach. The newest is the Seaside Way Dog Zone, which opened in 2015 and is located near the Arts District and the Convention Center. There are a few dog parks in North Long Beach and one in El Dorado Park, which was spearheaded by a dedicated bunch of volunteers, the Friends of El Dorado Dog Park. Each park is maintained slightly differently, some through volunteers and others through neighborhood associations.
The City had allowed Pearce a corner of Parcel 1, which borders Broadway and is situated between Junipero and Cherry avenues. This parcel, Pearce said, is one of the least utilized areas of the park and would have great visibility from the cafés and businesses on the Broadway corridor and from the rest of the park. It won’t go up against any residential buildings and will put an underused portion of the park into use, keeping other areas open for people to engage in sports and picnic.
“You’ve got kids playing, you’ve got youth, plays are going on there—it’s a perfect location for a dog park,” she said. “I think that it’s going to change the way people use that park, and that parcel in particular.”
But a corner isn’t big enough for either what Pearce envisions or the dogs themselves—it’s half or nothing, and she found a solution.
“If we’re going to invest taxpayer dollars in a dog park, we’re going to go big or go home,” Pearce said. “So, I reached out to [District 3 Councilmember] Suzie Price, whose district borders the other side. She said she’d always wanted a dog park, so she’s going to match funds so that the dog park can be done in a big enough way. It makes sense because she has enough constituents who’d use the park. If we can use half the parcel instead of a small corner, we could have a park with a good-size space for small dogs, a good-size space for large dogs, and a way to match with theme—green fencing to match the light poles instead of the blue ones, for instance.”
One of Councilmember Pearce's aims is to blend the dog park with Bixby Park's historic theme and color tone. Photo by Kate Karp.
Pearce said that she’ll poll the attendees of the community meeting to determine which half of the parcel to use. She wants to ensure that no opportunities are taken from other park users and also wants to maintain the park’s historical context—the circle of benches, the historic lampposts that the Friends of Bixby Park installed, and the leaf-green tone that complements the surroundings.
The dedicated half of Parcel 1, which faces busy Broadway, will be determined through resident input. Graphic courtesy of Melendrez Firm.
“I’ve used Bixby Park ever since I’ve been a resident of Long Beach,” she said. “I’m very familiar with all of it. I really enjoyed going through the visioning that was done by my predecessor years ago. The Friends of Bixby Park has also put in a lot of vision and commitment into that area, and so in conversations and meeting with them, we discussed how we’d activate the park in a new way. And we’ll make sure that we’re abiding by the dog park rules and make sure that it’s clean and safe for everybody.”
Gayle Carter, who is the president of the Friends of the Uptown Dog Park Volunteers and who liaisons for the needs of Coolidge, Scherer and Jackson parks in North Long Beach, understands the importance of posting the dog park regulations.
“This establishes that the rules are City oriented and not arbitrary,” Carter said. “And City rules posted on the signs have split responsibility. There are those things mandated by law—licensing, aggressive dogs, and so on are the responsibility of the ACS (Long Beach Animal Care Services) and the Long Beach police. Other things, like common-sense issues—eating in the dog park, kids running in the dog park—are self-regulated within the park.”
Both Carter and Mary Matthiensen, President of Friends of El Dorado Dog Park, stress the importance of calling for and coordinating volunteers to maintain parks, and Pearce agrees. She hopes to confirm volunteer assistance at the meeting from the Alamitos Beach Neighborhood Association, Friends of Bixby Park and anyone else who wants to give back. She also relies on her staff, particularly her field deputy, Milton Duena, who stops by Bixby Park every morning and evening and reports any needs back to the office.
But Pearce’s vision for the dog park extends beyond fencing, spaces for large and small dogs, double doors, design, and dogs frolicking off leash. She also wants to create a place that helps to further animal welfare in general and for pet owners to become informed about pet care so that the pets will lead a healthy life and won’t wind up in the shelter themselves.
“We don’t have a place in the Second District that’s an education center as well,” Pearce said. “I visited the shelter to see how we can use the area to the best benefit of the animals in our city. We have enough people in the community that care deeply about animals, so if they have a monthly adoption where the shelter brings out its new van and does an adoption there, great. We could have a Pet Day and have Animal Care Services and the Health Department to talk to people. We also want to do spay-and-neuter events at the park. And if we can have information for people—you responsibly own a pet, get it shots—we can decrease our euthanasia rate and increase our adoption rate. If we can get to a place where we can get a strong foster program through our city side, I think that places like this will help us get there.”
ACS's new mobile adoption van makes it considerably easier to transport cats and dogs to adoption events and show them. Photo courtesy of Long Beach Animal Care Services.
Pearce said that she’s researching options to put in a doggie café as well. Why should Hot Java have all the fun?
The first steps in creating the park, Pearce said, involve forming an infrastructure and building partnerships, and finally activating the park. Input from community meeting will help with the details and needs.
Response on social media has been overwhelmingly positive. Suggestions and wish list items are appearing on the event’s Facebook page, and over 30 respondents on NextDoor gave the proposed dog park wholehearted support, with a few concerns regarding parking and hopes that the presence of the dogs will drive crime elsewhere. Parking, said Pearce, should be no problem since most of the people utilizing the park will walk there and that there is an upcoming mobility study that will address parking. As for crime, Pearce says that it may indeed push it elsewhere, which isn’t a solution. However, the more people using the park responsibly, the more engagement there could be with other residents using the park.
“The best thing we can do is show ownership and pride,” Pearce said. “And I’m excited that we’re also going to have people learning how to responsibly own pets. This will be an opportunity to build a healthy Long Beach for human residents and also for our four-legged friends.
Tails up, Fido, and ready to wag!
All interested people, including children, are invited to attend Councilmember Pearce’s community meeting and give their input on creating the dog park. The event takes place this Saturday, March 18, from noon to 1:30 at the Bixby Park Community Center, 130 Cherry Avenue, Long Beach.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
~ Whoever said it got it right—in this microcosmic sense at least