Letters to the Editor
Give off-leash dog hours a try
It seems there is some misinformation circulating with regard to the Shaw Park off-leash dog hours program that I would like to clarify.
As a 40-year Valley resident and having moved to Kenwood four years ago to be closer to my mom, I found a wonderful group of neighbors that met daily at Shaw Park in the early and late hours on weekdays. It was a group of folks that visited as our dogs played. There were no dog fights or drama, just a bunch of friendly mutts romping at the park. Everyone watched out for each other, made sure nothing unwanted was left in the park, and the humans and dogs thrived. We cleaned up after all of the weekenders that visited, including the then limited soccer games. We would find bottles, trash, and athletic tape all over the field, and dog messes along the walking paths from leashed dogs that we continually cleaned up. One day a park ranger decided to issue warnings and citations for dogs off leash, and after the court dismissed the $450/dog citations, we all went elsewhere, much to our dismay.
At that time, per the county’s request, we started a petition that was signed by 135 people. In keeping in correspondence with the Sonoma County Parks Office over the past two years, which is the governing body and owner of record for Shaw park (the Soccer club left long ago and is no longer active to maintain the field), we were able to finally move forward to where we are today.
The County sent multiple mailings, public posting were put up, two public meetings were held, the first of which approximately 60 people attended, both for and opposed. At the second meeting, and after the survey results were in, it was proposed that we move forward with a pilot program. All of these steps were also reported by the Kenwood Press.
Currently we have been approved to do a “pilot” three-month program to start sometime in the spring. The proposed hours are sunrise to 9 a.m., and a few hours prior to sunset. It will not impact parking, as it will not be available during business hours and we all walk in. At all times, of course, children and their safety take a priority. There is no primary use change proposed. It will be co-maintained by community dog owners. We are not trying to make big changes. This is about locals that want to use a limited area of the park during time periods of non-use and build a sense of community. The park will remain as it is except there will now be property owners reporting to the County about maintenance and rodent/pest issues and tending to the park on a daily basis. This process has been transparent and will remain that way.
As a resident of Kenwood I have three points to make on the current project being discussed for Shaw Park to have leash laws waived during early morning and late afternoon hours:
- I am delighted to live in a county that is responsive to the community members that file appropriate petitions for change.
- I look forward to the pilot project next year to give dog owners the off-leash choice.
- I support appropriate and thorough review of the pilot to take a look at impacts on the villagers and the outstanding county resource that is Shaw Park.
Off-leash dog park a bad ideaThe following letter was sent to Supervisor Susan Gorin and Sonoma County Regional Parks Director Bert Whitaker:
We write to register our opposition to the proposed Off-Leash Dog Park at Shaw Park in Kenwood.
As you may know, the soccer field at Shaw Park was created about 1980 by the Kenwood Soccer Club primarily for the benefit of Kenwood youth soccer teams, but also to provide a clean, safe recreational space for all children, youths and adults. Originally this space had been dedicated in 1940 to the Kenwood Community as a baseball field. Kenwood Youth Soccer Club worked closely with the then director of Sonoma County Regional Parks, Joseph Rodota, to make this happen with the blessings of Sonoma County. The club raised the necessary funds over a two year period with the usual raffles, spaghetti feeds, game day snack sales and a couple of gala events at Kunde Ranch. The whole community came together and made this happen. Donations in cash and kind came from individuals, and from local commercial companies and labor unions in the form of labor, materials and equipment. It truly was a wonderful example of community collaboration. Mr. Rodota had made it very clear to us at the outset that no County funds were available for this purpose, either for the initial capital spending or on-going maintenance. The total value of cash and donations to create the park was in excess of $30,000.
When the park and soccer fields were completed, the California State Association of Parks and Recreation Departments recognized the Club with an award presented at their annual dinner in Vallejo.
We believe that the Kenwood community values this clean, open, safe space as an asset for all to enjoy now and in the future and takes pride in the fact that we created it ourselves.
Having said that, we strongly believe that to allow it to be used as an Off-leash Dog Park is the wrong thing to do. We see the installation of a fence around the children’s play area with gates etc. as being aesthetically out of place and effectively destroying the beautiful open space that it is today. We are further concerned that dogs running free in a neighborhood park will inevitably lead to problems; for example damage to the turf surface (dogs love to dig), and potential danger to children who play in this park during daylight hours.
Our concern is that the County is accommodating the desires of a small group of dog owners to the disadvantage of the community as a whole.
Richard Gulson, Founding President of the Kenwood Youth Soccer Club
This is our opinion, based on our observations and discussions with our community.
Shaw Park, our historic playing field, bequeathed to our Kenwood community, to remain a sports field, is going to be remodeled, into a part time “off leash dog/run/area park” with a little child pen. It has been decided by five percent of our community.
Four months ago the parks department sent a survey to only 264 homes, a quarter of our population. This survey gave no indication that this “off leash dog run/area/park would be listed on numerous websites – wine tasting dog owners, where to go with your dog, things to do with your dog, dog friendly Sonoma county parks, pet friendly vacation rentals, etc.
For several years our leaders have allowed, into our community, unregulated, visitor associated businesses, uninspected food service, unpermitted events and illegal home rentals. Our two-lane highway frontage is a hub of over 12 tasting rooms, most in close proximity to our Shaw Park.
The “survey” was sent to homes just within about 1,200 feet from the dog run “project.”
Shaw Park is a community asset, publicly owned, and any redesign or reuse requires a community process.
The “survey” was bogus.
An “off leash” dog run area program may have been initiated by local dog owners. It appeared to take on a force by our county agency, to establish another wine country visitor amenity. A vacation or wine tasting destination with a perk for your dog and a nod to some vacation rental owners who evidently wish to “improve” Shaw Park.
There is signage and bag dispensers to install. Luckily, pledges for a large amount of money have come from vacation rental owners. It appears some people want a nicer park, with some shade.
Our pleas to have a community meeting at the firehouse were flatly refused.
When asked if Kenwood residents could vote on this issue we were told that would not be possible.
Shaw Park was the last piece of our community that had not been given over to enhance the valley vacation/tourism industry. A petition opposing this program, so far, has been signed by over 100 Kenwood residents. Full-time, taxpaying residents do not count. Vacation home owners, wine country visitors and a handful of dog owners are the important people.
The money and the county can do anything they want in our unincorporated area, using slippery practices and community conflict.
If you care about our only open space, our historic field, the last remnant of our Kenwood community, our inherited local treasure, will you help?
We do not have the legal expertise to pursue this “done deal.” Someone, or group, smarter than us, must now step up. We did all that we could. We are done.
Ron and judy Williams
Slow down before someone gets killedDear Editor,
On Monday morning, Dec. 7, a little before 9 a.m., while enjoying a morning walk with my friend Linda Kruzic and her dog Blanka, we had a frightening encounter. We were about half way up the little rise on Lawndale just prior to the Schultz stop sign, when a navy blue compact sedan (possibly a Toyota) came roaring over the hill (heading toward Bristol/Lawndale) going at least 50 and possibly more miles per hour. This driver had plenty of time and space to see us as we were down the hill. Here’s what happened: Not only did they not slow down, but swerved right toward us as if in an attempt to hit us. I screamed loudly, grabbed Linda pulling her to the side of the road to block her from the car and then Blanka jumped up on her hind legs, threw her paws around my neck and then the entire length of her body in an attempt to shield both of us from the oncoming speeding car.
Honestly, it was a near miss. We felt that car pass right by us. The car, in fact, sped away even faster, making no attempt to see if we were OK. All three of us were quite unnerved by the experience.
Many local residents walk, run, bicycle and walk their dogs on both ends of Lawndale from morning to night. This is my second letter regarding car and truck speeders in these neighborhoods and I apologize at the risk of sounding like a broken record. But I have to ask you local drivers this question. How would you feel if you killed or gravely injured an innocent pedestrian? Could you live with that on your conscience for the rest of your life just because you were in a hurry to get to work or just feel that you own the road?
One size doesn’t fit allDear Editor,
The November Sonoma County Planning Commission meeting on the new proposed vacation rental ordinance was interesting to witness. I felt it was clear, given the stance of what appeared to be the entire Russian River, versus the stance of the residents of Glen Ellen/Kenwood/Boyes, that the county needs two ordinances . . . or the communities need to incorporate so they don’t have to be governed by the same ordinance. For Monte Rio, with a “Welcome to Vacationland” sign and a history of vacation rentals, to be mandated to follow the same rules as the north Sonoma Valley, which is and has been rural residential/agrarian for just as long, is absurd. Glen Ellen shouldn’t have to adopt a “Welcome to Vacationland” stance; Monte Rio should be able to accommodate the crowds. It’s two economic cultures, both needing guidance and regulation.
Clearly, each community will have to lobby for whatever zone is appropriate. We need to make sure Glen Ellen/Kenwood/Boyes are in the “X zone” so that we don’t become Monte Rio. If we had wanted to live in Monte Rio, we would have chosen that in the first place, and vice versa. If the vacation rental trolls who are scamming properties in Glen Ellen/Kenwood/Boyes want Monte Rio-style vacation rental freedoms, they should look there, not here.
Until those zones are established, the county should stop granting vacation rental permits in the valley. To continue when one department has no clue what the other is doing is just plain negligent.
And if Transcendence Theater needs housing, they should ask patrons, or be OK with renting a room in Santa Rosa or Petaluma. I love the theater; it does a lot of good, but attempting to influence county zoning rules and remold a community for a handful of shows every summer is extreme!
Marsha and Bill Selhorn
Scott and Sarah Walker
Shop localDear Editor,
If you don’t own a pet, don’t have farm animals, or feed wild birds or squirrels, you may be missing out on one of Kenwood’s great treasures, Swede’s Feeds!! It’s so much more than a feed store. It’s a place to hang out and listen to the wonderful music they have playing (and sell too), and run into friends you haven’t seen in a dog’s age (no pun intended). Simply put, it’s my favorite place in Kenwood (second only to the Kenwood Press office).
It’s a place to buy gifts. Much of their inventory is so unusual that when you don’t know what to buy for someone on your list, you’ll find it there. They have an incredible card selection, plants and pottery, scarves, socks and mittens and gloves, candies, and honey, accoutrement of all kinds for pets, and much, much more. It’s so much fun being there. Aspen and Michael are always upbeat and full of any kind of information one might need. These two are exceptional buyers, so you will see the curious, the unexpected and the uncommon…which you will soon find you want to own.
And the best part is... you don’t have to drive “to town.” They’re right here on the highway. If we don’t all do our part to frequent these Mom and Pop stores, small relics of our gentle past, they will soon be all gone. We’ll be living in the world of big box stores and online shopping. What a drab world it will be. So do yourself a favor... drop by Swede’s. You’ll be glad you did!!
Catherine Moylan Jefferson
Trump’s views dangerousDear Editors,
The poem by Emma Lazarus on the Statue of Liberty includes the famous lines, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free…” So now we can trample them in the mud and strip away the last vestige of dignity they have after being run out of their homes by violence and repression. Donald Trump would establish a national registry for all Muslims. Perhaps we can require that all of them, refugees and citizens alike wear a yellow crescent sewn to their clothing. The Mayor of Roanoke, Virginia, wants to resurrect the internment camps from World War II. When do we start building the ovens?