Local dog parks suffer as funding for City parks declines

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Local dog parks suffer as funding for City parks declines

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Dog parks in Reno are a popular haven for dogs and people alike to exercise and socialize. But park funding continues to decline.

Over the last three years, the city's parks maintenance budget has fallen by nearly 30 percent, and the decrease impacts the state of our dog parks, like the one at Virginia Lake.

Dog parks are the fastest growing segment of city parks in America.

More than 47 percent of U.S. households report owning at least one dog. That's 28 percent more than households who report having one child. So it's no wonder America's parks are going to the dogs.

The City of Reno has several puppy playgrounds. Rancho San Rafael and Link Piazzo Dog Park in Hidden Valley are two sprawling recreation facilities with plenty of room for Fido to frolic. But the dog park at Virginia Lake, near the heart of the Biggest Little City, seems neglected.

Kevin Smith has been bringing his border collie Nicky to this park for several years.

"It's not considered a top-of-the-line dog park. It's a sandy area; the dogs get dirty very easily. It's very seldom do we see park employees in here doing any maintenance whatsoever."

The dog park at Virginia Lake sits adjacent to its picturesque namesake. There isn't any grass in the dog park. The entire run is covered with coarse sand.

A large portion of the park is full of invasive plant species like Russian thistle, better known as tumbleweed. The thistle is full of burrs and sharp thorns that Smith says get stuck in the dog's paws, causing irritation occasionally requiring veterinarian assistance to be removed.

"The weeds are something that we do need to certainly be aware of and maintain."

That's Reno City Councilwoman Sharon Zadra who represents Ward Two, the area of the city where the Virginia Lake Dog Park sits.

Zadra says she was not aware of the presence of harmful weeds, but now that the issue has been brought to her attention, she will have them removed.

"I'll definitely put a work order in for, you know, that weed situation because that is something that we need to be on top of absolutely."

Jeanne Young brings her dog Bear to the park daily. She says the lack of maintenance attention shown to the park has patrons taking matters into their own hands.

"Right now, people from the park, the ones that come here, are the ones that chop things down."

The disarray of the dog park led one person to post a flier with the name and phone number of a city official that other patrons could contact with complaints regarding the condition of the park.

"I'm the liaison to the parks and recreation commission."

That's Jenny Brekhus. She represents Ward One on the Reno City Council and is the contact provided on the flier.

Brekhus says the lack of attention paid to the dog park at Virginia Lake is part of a bigger issue involving funding for maintenance of all city parks:

"We recently heard from our parks maintenance division that we only have the resources to maintain our parks at half the level that we have previously."

According to an expense report outlining the parks maintenance budget for the City of Reno, funding for the upkeep of city parks has decreased by nearly 30 percent from more than 4 million dollars in 2009, to 2.7 million in 2014.

"The cutbacks have been about three years now, and they're starting to show because they were at a very good level and the decline is starting to become very, very evident to the public, and it's a bad situation."

Until the city of Reno can find more funding for parks and recreation, dog owner Kevin Smith says he'll keep coming back to the dog park at Virginia Lake, even though the conditions of the park continue to concern him.