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Costa Mesa looking to unleash improvements at local Bark Park

Costa Mesa Bark Park 1.24.20
Misheeka, a female husky, loves to play at the Costa Mesa Bark Park every morning. A proposed city renovation would give her new grass to romp on instead of dirt.
(Faith E. Pinho)

When Misheeka, a playful husky with boundless energy and an affinity for slobbery kisses, gallops across Costa Mesa’s Bark Park, her pristine white paws dirty to a dull brown.

Farah Namvari, Misheeka’s owner, shook her head.

“They track all the mud and the dust at home unless they’re washed — and it’s not possible to wash the dog every day,” said Namvari, who has taken Misheeka to the park at 890 Arlington Drive nearly every day for the past month. “I end up washing her legs and the part that’s dirty. I wipe it and clean it before I take her inside the home.”

If the city of Costa Mesa has its way, Namvari may soon be relieved of her daily dog-washing duties.

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City staff is preparing an estimated $400,000 overhaul of the park’s two sections for large and small dogs.

The main attraction would be a new ground layer covering the 2-plus-acre expanse, according to city staff. Roughly the top 10 inches of soil, currently splotched with patches of turf, would be replaced and planted with a thick layer of aggressively growing kikuyu grass.

The envisioned project, which is still in the design phase, also would adjust the irrigation system, add fertilizers and include some potential aesthetic enhancements.

The proposal also would change out the water bowl system — “it gets very dirty,” Namvari said — and possibly add an agility obstacle course.

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Staff members presented their vision to a supportive city Parks, Arts and Community Services Commission Thursday evening. Commissioners gave their feedback on the proposal, which is expected to go before the City Council for consideration in March.

“I love how much dedication is going toward our furry friends and their beautiful parks,” said Commissioner Kelli Frager.

Staff proposes to split the cost of the renovations between this fiscal year and next. The goal would be to refurbish half the area in the spring and the other half in early summer. Only segments of the park would be closed at any one time, so dog owners would still have a place to bring their pups during the renovation.

Commissioner Sara Fahy suggested having pop-up dog parks in other parts of the city, at least during the planned overhaul, to accommodate residents.

Costa Mesa Maintenance Services Manager Bruce Lindemann said in an interview that the more than 20-year-old park, which is closed on Wednesdays for maintenance, is heavily used and there isn’t enough rest time for the ground to recover.

At Thursday’s meeting, commissioners acknowledged the soil issues at the dog park and said they support removing layers of the dirt — which Lindemann explained is too saturated with sodium to grow most grass.

The city has spent thousands of dollars in recent years to address the issue, but to little avail. In 2017, the city employed hydro-seeding — spreading seeds mixed with other fibers and moisture across the property. In 2018, crews installed sod. But in each case, the grass would die off after initial growth spurts.

Costa Mesa Bark Park 1.24.20
A proposed $400,000 project would replace the patchy grass in Costa Mesa’s Bark Park with a new layer of dirt and kikuyu grass, an aggressively growing seed. Previous efforts to sustain grass at the park have been thwarted by high salinity in the soil, according to city officials.
(Faith E. Pinho)
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Al Melone, a longtime Costa Mesa resident and former member of the Costa Mesa Bark Park Foundation that used to run the facility, shook his head at staff’s photos of the dirt-covered park.

“Anyone who’s going there now, you’ve got dirt blowing up in your eyes,” he said Thursday.

Melone said he hopes the city will fix the water bowl arrangement and change the irrigation system in the small dog area so that trees will grow. Before his dog, an American Eskimo named Cheyenne, died in July, he often brought her to the park several days a week.

Melone wasn’t too keen about the idea of a dog agility course — a series of obstacles that can be used to train animals for dog shows.

“This agility equipment is a disaster,” he said. “Right now, we have diversity. We have all kinds of little dogs — mixed breeds, Yorkies, Chihuahuas ... Some are active, they want to play with other dogs. Others just want to stay with the owner. They’re like people, they have all kinds of different personalities. You turn the dog park into a circus, you’re going to scare [them] away.”

But the overarching problem, he agreed, is the patchy grass.

On Friday morning, a friendly Dachshund sniffed at the feet of some park visitors before scurrying across the dirt field to fetch a thrown tennis ball. Over the chain-link fence in the large dog area, about a dozen canines romped over a slope of land. One pup jumped into the water bowl with his front paws, further fueling the surrounding mud puddle.

Misheeka ran up to a stranger to slather her with a friendly kiss.

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“She loves this dog park,” Namvari said. “Every day, she’s crying for this dog park. She wakes me up in the morning to come here and play with her friends.”

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