Marina considers a canine campus and extreme sports facility near the airport.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Few places exist where one can find a mix of bomb-sniffing dogs, rescue pooches, tail-wagging helpers and hurdle-jumping hounds – other than a Best-Of Animal Planet episode, that is. Perhaps even more rare: extreme sports and extreme dogs, side by side. But Marina may one day host the juxtaposition.
Joel Gambord and Martha Diehl want to bring a one-of-a-kind dog training campus to a site near the Marina Municipal Airport. Diehl pitched the proposed Institute for Canine Studies to the Marina City Council on July 17. If the doggy school gets the green light from the city, there could be acrobatic and heroic pups alongside dirt-loving daredevils: The council is also vetting whether to build a motocross and paintball facility or a golf course near the airport.
The canine campus would include the Assistance Dog Institute; the Search and Rescue Foundation, which trains dog-handler teams to find people during national disasters; and the Monterey Bay Dog Center, a venue for dog shows and classes.
Bonnie Bergin, who pioneered the service dog concept, founded the Santa Rosa-based Assistance Dog Institute. More than 30 years ago Bergin started using dogs to help people with disabilities. Now, her institute trains dogs to read flash cards and sniff out mealybugs in Napa Valley vineyards.
Another partner in the doggy college proposal is Pups for Peace. The group flies pooches and handlers to Israel to learn how to detect suicide bombers. In a partnership with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security, the nonprofit recently trained eight California law enforcement officers and their dogs to foil terrorist attacks.
Gambord has his sights on a 31-acre parcel along Blanco Road near the intersection of Reservation Road. The land is part of a 64-acre area that the city has zoned for an industrial business park. Gambord has a site plan and renderings, and has also offered to develop the business park. But the doggy school isn’t a done deal. The city of Marina is pursuing competing plans for the airport.
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On a separate 200 acres of land to the north of airport, the City hopes to attract either a golf resort or an extreme sports facility. Marina officials lined up a golf course developer in the ‘90s, but the project lacked water and ended in litigation. Now, a golf course appears to be back on the table.
An economic analysis by Bay Area Economics warns that a golf course at the Marina site would have plenty of competition, including a revamped Bayonet and Blackhorse and a golf resort planned in Del Rey Oaks. Nonetheless, the report says a mid-priced golf course – especially one targeted to pilots – could be viable.
The report also says that there is a growing demand for extreme sports and a lack of local facilities. This is why Robert Puccinelli, president of Monterey Bay Construction, wants to build one.
Puccinelli has proposed a facility with a motocross track, go-kart rentals, a paintball field, and a retail/service center. Puccinelli races motocross and says he has to travel to Sacramento and southern California to ride. “I want to create a family oriented-recreation facility that would be a hub for the city of Marina,” he says. “I believe we are going to pull people from as far away as the Bay Area maybe even Sacramento, down to San Luis Obispo.”
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Diehl, who owns a pair of black and white border collies, says the county lacks an indoor dog venue and the local clubs need a place to call their own, instead of using the Monterey and Watsonville fairgrounds for obedience classes.
Diehl realizes that the proposal for a dog campus sounds kind of silly. “I have a sense that people start out saying, ‘Oh cute puppies, very nice.’ But if you look at the economic effects of these dog shows, they pump money into the community.”
The idea lay dormant until she connected with Gambord, a retired Bay Area developer who lives in Pebble Beach. Gambord’s son, Richard, developed multiple sclerosis in his early 30s. When his condition worsened, they went to the Assistance Dog Institute to get him a service dog. Gambord was told that his son would have to wait three to five years. “So I told them, ‘Let’s do something about that,’ ” Gambord says.
Gambord then got backing from Bergin to develop an expanded Assistance Dog Institute on the Monterey Peninsula. The Institute and other organizations jumped on board, partially because of the county’s mild weather and the prospect of kickdowns from wealthy residents, Gambord says. “The mother’s milk for all these programs is donations,” he says, noting that Dogfriendly.com ranked Carmel/Monterey as the second most dog-friendly resort area in the country. “They all want to be here on the Monterey Peninsula.”
At its July 17 meeting, the City Council told staff to work on a request for proposals for the airport site. Although the council didn’t bark in excitement, it voted to keep the doggy door for the canine institute open.