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Flip-flop ban at San Juan Capistrano parks baffles city officials

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City officials in San Juan Capistrano are trying to figure out exactly how flip-flops became banned at two city parks.

The flip-flop ban is in place at Los Rios Park in the city’s historic district and at a recently opened dog park, said city spokeswoman Cathy Salcedo. The ban was first reported by the Orange County Register.

The rule had gone largely unnoticed at Los Rios. But when the dog park opened in August and the rules were posted, several commissioners with the city's Parks, Recreation and Senior Services were befuddled.

During a meeting in August the commissioners said they didn’t understand why the flip-flop ban had been implemented.

“I wouldn’t think twice about going into the dog park in my flip-flops,” said Commission Vice Chairwoman Jenny Friess. “I don’t think we need to really be telling people what to wear on their feet.”

On Monday, Commission Secretary Cynthia Alexander said she had been informed by city staff that the ban was designed to protect the city from liability under a template provided by the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority, which provides liability insurance to dozens of cities in the state.

Salcedo, the spokeswoman, said she believed the ban had been implemented in response to a recommendation from the city’s insurer but added that she was trying to reach the project manager who oversaw Los Rios Park to be sure. 

During the Monday meeting, some of the commissioners said they had even worn flip-flops to the dog park’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Alexander said the rule is not enforced because there is no supervision at the park.

“If you go to the park with flip-flops there’s no one going to tell you to leave the park,” she said. “You’re using it at your own risk.”

Commissioner Gerald Muir took issue with that.

"Why have rules that you’re not going to enforce?" he said.

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