HUNTINGTON BEACH : Every Dog May Soon Have Its Day in the Park Playground

Delighting pet owners who want to let their canine companions run free, the city has moved closer to designating part of Huntington Central Park as a permanent dog park.

The Community Services Commission approved the site east of Edwards Street on Wednesday. About 100 dog owners attended the meeting to show their support for a playground where pets can run and play without leashes.

The dog park opened in March for a three-month trial and proved to be very popular. Through community donations, Friends of the Dog Park raised $5,000, of which about $2,000 has been spent for temporary fencing and signs.

"It's a big step for us," said dog owner Don Thompson, who helped organize the fund-raising effort. "At least now we have some form of permanency to make some improvements."

Some horse owners who use a nearby equestrian trail raised safety issues, saying that their animals might be spooked by frolicking dogs, and they presented a petition to the commission requesting that their concerns be addressed. Other equestrians, however, said compromise is possible.

To reduce any potential problems, the commission voted to close the horse trail at the north end of the dog park and to place 20-foot buffer zones between the canine area and the south and west sides of the dog park.

Jim Engle, deputy community services director, said the buffer areas will have trees, shrubs and a wind-screen fence to limit visibility to both dogs and horses.

In addition, because of concerns from nearby residents about barking dogs in the early morning, the commission directed its staff to consider later opening times on Saturdays and Sundays--7:30 a.m. instead of the current 6 a.m.

The City Council will make the final decision later this summer on making the dog park a permanent facility.

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