Dog park closing in El Charco
By Cesar Arias
The Board of the Botanic Garden informs its members and users that starting September 1, the area delineated for the dog park will be reintegrated into the rest of the reserve.
This section of almost two acres, adjacent to the Balcones neighborhood, has served as a space for domestic dogs and owners since August 2010, when it was fenced and prepared for that purpose. El Charco’s board accepted such use—although outside its mandate—at the request of a group of members, mostly from Balcones, imagining that it would provide a service to the community and not have adverse effects. Despite the good intentions of a group of organized members, there have constantly been breaches of the rules by the users, and the application of an additional fee for access did not provide enough to cover staffing to take care of and monitor the area.
The main reason that led the board to make this decision is the effect the segregation and division the dog area has created in El Charco as a community public space. Almost all visitors and users no longer access that part of the garden beyond the entrances to the area mainly announced by the presence of dogs. In addition to simple fears which could arise from knowing there may be dogs around, there have been recurrent nuisances and attacks on users by dogs inside the area and between dogs themselves, which their owners have not been able to contain. The succession of complaints reported by several members has been an additional cause for the board’s decision.
Another more recent and alarming reason is the successive deaths of wild mammals in the reserve, apparently infected with distemper, a common disease among dogs in San Miguel. The dead mammals are species vulnerable to this disease, such as the gray fox and skunk, and it may also have reached the population of raccoons. The vet has ruled out poisoning and points with much certainty to distemper, probably transmitted through indirect contact (excreta, etc.) with domestic dogs, vaccinated or not, or perhaps with feral dogs. Even if it’s difficult to locate and prevent contacts throughout the reserve, it is best to reduce the possibility of further transmitting this disease by not having the area for dogs.
The existing fence will be withdrawn on September 1, and the two sections of the garden will be reintegrated as a single space for every visitor. We remind you that Landeta Park, adjacent to the Botanical Garden, is an open space for unleashed pets. Those users who paid an additional fee for using the dog park may go to the garden’s reception if they wish to be reimbursed on a pro rata basis.
The Board of El Charco apologizes for any inconvenience, expecting the reasons for canceling the dog park to be understood by the users.