It started with a chance encounter five years ago, two couples and their dogs, striking up a conversation about how the region needed a fenced off-leash dog park where their dogs could roam safely. Soon after that meeting, the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District announced it was acquiring the 190-acre Rancho Cañada Golf Course at the mouth of Carmel Valley, with plans to incorporate it into 4,585-acre Palo Corona Regional Park. The two couples – Linda and David Mullally of Carmel Valley and Norman and Fran Leve of Carmel Highlands, or the “Dog Park Four” as they dubbed themselves – asked the district to include a dog park in plans.
“This is a golden opportunity to give the community what it needs,” Linda Mullally remembers telling Rafael Payan, MPRPD general manager. Now on a mission, the four set about to prove the need with a petition that garnered 400 signatures. Their lobbying efforts were successful, with the MPRPD board voting in 2018 to add a 2.5-acre fenced-in dog park with two areas, for large and small dogs. Now in the design stages, MPRPD staff plan on applying for grants to cover the cost.
The Palo Corona park will stand out from other off-leash dog areas like Garland Ranch Park and Carmel Beach, not only as a fenced-in area but also because it will offer what the others do not: compatibility with Americans with Disability Act standards. “We recognize that some folks aren’t as ambulatory as others but want to be outdoors and want to be with their pups and want to be with other people under the sun,” Payan says.
The dog park will also serve as a staging area for Cal Fire and other agencies during wildfires, Payan says. In addition, MPRPD has a partnership with SPCA Monterey County to potentially use the area to house evacuated livestock in emergencies.
On Saturday, July 17, the district is holding a “Plan Your Park” open house to introduce people to development plans for the Rancho Cañada portion of Palo Corona, which includes a nature-based playground, outdoor classroom and amphitheater in addition to the dog park. Visitors will get a chance to walk the area and give input into what they want to see in the designs.
The Dog Park Four will be there too. They’ve arranged with dog-related businesses to set up booths and provide dog treats for four-legged visitors.