Dog-free zone planned for Powerhouse Park in Del Mar

By Joe Tash

A tot lot and adjacent lawn at Powerhouse Park in Del Mar will soon be off-limits to dogs, based on discussion at Monday’s (April 15) Del Mar City Council meeting.

On the agenda was a recommendation made in February by the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee, which was originally suggested by Del Mar resident Rich Ehrenfeld, to create a “barefoot friendly” area in Powerhouse Park where toddlers and small children could play.

All five members of the council supported the concept of a dog-free area at the park, and directed staff to draft an ordinance and an enforcement plan. The ordinance will come back to the council at a later date.

Currently, leashed dogs are allowed at Powerhouse Park and other parks in the city, and are also allowed on local beaches, although there are seasonal restrictions. From Labor Day through June 14, dogs are allowed unleashed on the city’s North Beach, near the mouth of the San Dieguito River, which is nicknamed Dog Beach.

Allowing dogs and kids to mix at playgrounds creates sanitary and safety issues, Ehrenfeld said.

“It’s time for Del Mar to get kid-friendly,” said Ehrenfeld, who was the only member of the public to speak on the issue at Monday’s council meeting.

By keeping dogs out of the tot lot and adjacent lawn area, Ehrenfeld said, families will feel free to let their children play in the grass without fear of contamination from droppings.

Councilman Don Mosier, a physician, said the issue is one of public safety.

A report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control lists 33 different diseases that can be transmitted to humans from dogs or cats.

“These are serious health issues,” Mosier said.

“The data from around the world says this is a problem. I think we need to create a space that’s dog-free and this is a good place to start,” he said.

Other council members also supported the idea of a dog-free zone at Powerhouse Park.

Ehrenfeld suggested that signs marking the area be “light-hearted,” and cited a Los Angeles Park where signs prohibit dogs but state, “Bare Feet Welcome.”

Mayor Terry Sinnott agreed. “I encourage it to be light-hearted. I’d hate to have 20 signs (saying) ‘Keep your dog out of here,’” he said.