Proposal To Shorten Hours At Manhattan Beach Dog Run Causes Standoff Between Residents

Proposal To Shorten Hours At Manhattan Beach Dog Run Causes Standoff Between Residents
The dog run in Manhattan Beach.
The dog run in Manhattan Beach. (Photo: Emily Siegel)

The community board representing Manhattan Beach is girding for a dogfight on Tuesday when a proposal to limit hours at the Oriental Boulevard dog run comes to a vote.

In one corner stands Shari Kaplan, a board member and founder of the Friends of Manhattan Beach Dog Run Association. She wants to shorten the hours of the fenced-in dog run during the winter to improve cleanliness and safety. Though the run currently is open the same hours as Manhattan Beach Park, 6am to 9pm, Kaplan wants to limit the hours to 7am to 7pm during the winter.

“We don’t want people going in there at night because it’s dark,” she said. “They can’t see, so they can’t pick up after their dogs.”

Kaplan believes that the lack of lighting at night attracts patrons who don’t pick up after their dog, as well as people who are more likely to commit crimes.

In the other corner stands Mariel Marmol, Navy veteran and who visits the run daily with her service dog Radar. Marmol prefers the longer hours at the park since it gives her and her working mother more flexibility. She also has the option to bring Radar at quieter times, like the evening, she says.

“I prefer to come when there’s three, four, five, six dogs here,” she says. “When lots of dogs are here it’s harder to keep an eye on my dog.”

Marmol, like many other residents in the community, has a wealth of complaints about the dog run. The area lacks lighting, benches, proper drainage, and separate areas for large and small dogs. These are the reasons the park is dirty, not the hours it’s open, she says.

“If it does work out that the hours are changed I don’t think that’s going to affect the cleanliness,” said Marmol. “People who follow the rules are still going to.”

Kaplan counters that there’s been vandalism in the area and the late hours contribute to the crime problem. Yet 61st Precinct Community Liason Officer Lauren Au disagrees.

“Nothing I see would connect the dog park with the crime,” said Au.

The run has been a source of tension for years. In 2012 when former City Councilman Michael Nelson allocated $500,000 to renovate the run, debates soared about whether the money should go instead toward relocating the dog run and creating a community garden in its space. Some wanted to use the money to upgrade the park’s basketball courts.

The money remains unspent and the dog run is in the same condition as it was three years ago. According to Kaplan, $650,000 is needed to bring the dog run up to snuff. The price tag may seem large, but it’s run-of-the-mill compared to the $1 million budget for a dog run in Queens, which was featured in an article The New York Times last week.

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