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Park directors to decide fate

A dog park designed to let Fido run and play without a leash is disrupting country life for a few residents in Penn Valley.

As a result, Western Gateway Park’s Board of Directors will decide the future of the county’s only no-leash dog park. A public meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Buttermaker’s Cottage at the park.

“We’re very concerned for the park, the individuals and the neighbor,” said Jim Morgan, chairman of the Western Gateway Park board.



Penn Valley Rotary Club volunteers biult the only no-leash park in the county in 2003 with nearly $10,000 donated by local supporters and Rotary International. Today, as many as 30 people and their pets frequent the park daily.

People from as far away as Nevada City, Cedar Ridge and Lake of the Pines come to use it, said Larry Bailey, a Rotarian who helped establish the dog park.




The dog area is built on Western Gateway Park property and a section of a 60-foot easement on the park property that is owned by Mark Lahr of Santa Cruz.

A 60-foot-by-100 foot pen erected around the dog area denies the Lahr family access to the easement that runs to Squirrel Creek, Lahr said.

“I don’t own the dirt, but I own the easement. It comes with the deed. You cannot deny me access,” Lahr said.

His father, Wells Lahr, has lived on the property adjacent to a cemetery for 20 years. The family wants to see the dog area shut down and moved somewhere else in the park.

The dog run – and the dog owners it attracts – have upset their tranquility, the Lahrs said.

The dog area is located at the end of a rough, narrow dirt drive that becomes dusty during the summer. Loose dogs have gotten into his garage, a truck clipped him on his walk to get the mail and two snarling dogs lunged at him, Wells Lahr said.

Park workers installed speed limit signs and hung a chain across the end of the dirt drive to prevent use by dog owners after dusk.

But drinking and reckless drivers remain a problem, Mark Lahr said. “It’s happy hour down there,” he said.

No place else

Dog owners say they don’t know what they will do if the park is shut down. There is no other place in the county where dogs are free to run without a leash.

Park officials said they are reviewing ways to mend the problem. If a resolution cannot be made to satisfy both residents and dog owners, Morgan said, the dog run area may have to close or relocate.

Board member Michael Green has indicated he will urge the board to shut down the dog run as soon as possible, designate a temporary no-leash dog area somewhere else in the park and set up a committee to study the placement and design of a permanent dog area in a new location.

In the meantime, tensions remain high between the two sides of the issue.

On Thursday afternoon, John Arsenault and his boxer Dempsey were visiting the park. Arsenault, a Lake Wildwood resident, said he spends several hours a day there so his two boxers can get unleashed exercise they wouldn’t get otherwise. In his neighborhood, no fences are allowed.

Some evenings, Arsenault said, he plays cards and sips beers with other dog owners at the park.

Arsenault heads a group of other dog owners called Friends of the Dog Park. They have distributed 50 fliers alerting people that the dog run area may close.

Wells Lahr ran into Arsenault in the park on Thursday.

“You wouldn’t want this in your backyard,” Wells Lahr said with a quavering voice, pointing with frustration to Arsenault.

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To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail laurab@theunion.com or call 477-4231.


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