OCEANSIDE — Designs are underway for a new, off-leash dog park at Ron Ortega Park.
The City Council approved a $465,584 agreement with San Diego-based planning and landscape architect KTU&A to design the dog park in late March.
Oceanside has no municipal off-leash dog parks after being forced to close its first and only dog park on San Luis Rey Road in 2018. Since then, resident pet owners have either had to leave the city or have illegally taken them off-leash at regular city parks.
Last year, a citizen-led effort to create a dog beach failed after pushback from opposed residents and council members concerned about potential health effects and taking any more space away from the city’s sand-deprived beaches.
City staff analyzed and considered feedback from residents indicating which parks would be the most suitable for a new dog park. In the end, Ron Ortega Park was chosen due to its vacant 2.8 acres of land on top of a closed landfill, the existing amenities, including restrooms and an irrigation system, ample parking and its accessibility to the nearby Interstate 5 freeway.
“It’s a better location than the beach,” said Deputy Mayor Ryan Keim at the March 22 meeting.
The new dog park won’t cover all 2.8 acres of vacant land as the city intends to keep a buffer zone between the dog park and the baseball fields at Ron Ortega Park.
Associate Engineer Kymberly Corbin said the city would not remove any existing amenities at the park, something that Oceanside American Little League members feared.
Members of the league felt scorned because the city did not directly reach out to them during the public outreach process for the dog park. In addition, the association takes care of the baseball fields and batting cage at Ron Ortega for discounted city fees.
“We work with Parks and Recreation, and not one time was it brought up to us,” said League President Junior Ramirez.
Ramirez noted that the league is not outright opposed to the park but has concerns regarding the buffer areas and distractions like dogs barking for the players.
Though City Manager Jonathan Borrego noted an “extensive” public outreach process, he apologized for lacking direct communication with the American Little League. He also said the city could work with the league moving forward on best practices to ensure the buffer zone works.
“In no way have we ever thought we could not peacefully coexist with the Little League, otherwise we wouldn’t have presented this,” Borrego said.
The city hopes the dog park will deter criminal activity from continuing in the park.
Mayor Esther Sanchez abstained from voting in favor or against the dog park designs, requesting more information about the park before moving forward. She also noted that she would like more green space for Crown Heights neighborhood children.
According to Borrego, the space proposed for the dog park at Ron Ortega could not be used as green space for children because of its status as a former landfill. He added that about half of the funds allocated for the park’s design will be used for permitting because of the former landfill.
Borrego said Oceanside is big enough and needs more than one dog park.