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Healdsburg dogs to keep their park

  • Rob Johnson rests with his dog Shasta at the Villa Chanticleer Dog Park in Healdsburg on Monday.

Dog owners packed Healdsburg City Hall on Wednesday night to make it abundantly clear they do not want the city to close a popular dog park on Fitch Mountain.

The outcry over a suggestion that the Villa dog park be relocated made an impact with members of the Healdsburg Park and Recreation Commission, who said they had no intention of making such a recommendation to the City Council.

"The dog park never really factored into our discussions," Commissioner Kent Mitchell said of the commission's task to recommend how to make profitable the nearby city-owned Villa Chanticleer.

"We're not going to be closing the dog park," said Commissioner Gus Hermoso. He added that residents, including himself, "have a lot of blood, sweat and tears put in the dog park. We wouldn't turn around and discard it."

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 80 people filled the City Council chamber. Most were there to back the one-and-a-half acre dog park, which was described as the best in Northern California. Some dog owners who praised the park came from Windsor and Rohnert Park.

They talked about how the shaded park serves not only as a socialization venue for dogs, but for humans who forge friendship and bonds.

"We didn't know anyone when we moved here. It was the dog park that created a community for us," said Healdsburg resident Ann Godfrey, who recounted how one of her dog park friends lent her a car after a tree toppled onto her vehicle.

Commissioners said the alarm over the dog park came from a small mention in a background report that was blown out of proportion.

The dog park was cited for possible relocation on a list of about 80 "improvement recommendations" for the city-owned Villa Chanticleer that resulted from a brainstorming session on how to improve and best manage the community center.

"This is not something we are considering at this point" assistant City Manager David Mickaelian emphasized Wednesday. "The dog park is not part of the conversation."

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