Del Mar extends off-leash hours for dogs at Shores Park

Dogs will have even more time to enjoy Del Mar Shores Park following City Council consensus to renew a temporary shared-use plan for the park and extend off-leash hours.

The council originally adopted an ordinance in December 2012, authorizing a temporary off-leash area for dogs at the park. The policy, which was put in place after a six-month shared use trial period, was set to expire on Jan. 2, 2016.

In a 4-1 vote, council members on Nov. 2 reauthorized the off-leash area, allowing Del Mar Little League or other organized sports licensed by the city to use the space from 3:30 p.m. to dusk on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Dogs are allowed to be off-leash from 6 to 8:30 a.m. daily and from 3:30 p.m. to dusk on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Afternoon off-leash hours previously started at 4 p.m.

Sundays and all other daylight hours not included in the ordinance or when The Winston School is not in session are reserved for general park use, with dogs on leashes and without organized sports.

Although the ordinance was originally created as a way to balance the needs between athletic and dog uses of the ball field, the Little League program could not work with the reduced hours, according to the city staff report. Other organized sports have applied to use the field since the ordinance was adopted, however, and the ball field and basketball court are occasionally used by the public during scheduled sports hours. The Winston School also continues to use the space.

Dog owners have generally adhered to the schedule and kept the space clean, according to the report. Because some owners have violated the off-leash hours, however, staff recommended additional enforcement, including new signage and scheduled visits by the parking ranger, parking enforcement and code enforcement.

There is a $300 minimum fine for violating the rules.

“I fully endorse the enforcement of the hours,” said Del Mar resident Lynn Gaylord, who proposed the extended hours and brought a list of 65 to 70 names of supporters. “I’m happy to send out an e-blast reminding everybody and ensuring them there will be tickets and see if that helps.”

“You can only self-police to a certain extent because the popularity of the park is always changing,” said Councilman Terry Sinnott. “But we really appreciate the community doing their best to keep a good thing going.”

Mayor Al Corti cast the sole dissenting vote because he said the shared use of the park poses health problems and also leaves others, such as Little League, unable to use the space.

“I have a hard time supporting this,” he said.

The shared-use plan is temporary because the site’s master plan process is currently underway.

The city purchased the property from the Del Mar Union School District for $8.5 million in 2008, in an effort to preserve open space and recreational uses, continue the operation of The Winston School, and initiate a master plan process. The long-range plan will guide the development of the 5.3-acre park, which is bounded by Camino del Mar, Ninth Street and Stratford Court.

Schmidt Design Group, the design consultants hired to produce the master plan, will present three park designs in the spring.

The extended off-leash hours will take effect Dec. 16. The temporary plan is set to expire three years later or upon implementation of the master plan, whichever comes sooner.