A committee of the Santa Cruz County Parks Commission met Tuesday evening at Simpkins Swim Center in its third and final meeting to consider two proposals to the Commission: one to change County leash laws to allow off-leash dogs on the beach near 20th Avenue in Live Oak, and another to maintain County Leash Laws unchanged throughout the County. The Committee consists of three members each from Leash Law Advocates of Santa Cruz County (LLASCC) and Live Oak Off Leash Advocates (LOOLA), plus two members of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission.
The Committee heard a presentation of a proposal by LOOLA that asks the County to allow dogs off-leash on the beach between 20th and 23rd Avenues in Live Oak from sunrise to sunset.
Representatives of LLASCC discussed the proposal with LOOLA members. They presented information that half of the area requested is private property, and the entire area is nesting habitat for sensitive shorebirds, and Critical Habitat for the Tidewater Goby. This Sensitive Habitat under County regulations would require the County to conduct extensive environmental review of the project area, and obtain a development permit from the California Coastal Commission.
LOOLA members contend that the current proposal is a compromise from an earlier proposal that asked for limited off-leash morning and evening hours from Moran Lake Beach to 20th Avenue beach. LLASCC members pointed out that the smaller beach area would create an intensification of beach use that would result in increased health and safety impacts from off-leash dogs on wildlife, sensitive habitat and other beach users.
LLASCC presented a proposal asking the County to develop an Off-Leash Dog Park Master Plan that would establish criteria for site selection and construction, plus rules and regulations for off-leash dog parks. The Off-Leash Dog Parks Master Plan would provide a comprehensive, county-wide framework for evaluation of proposals, such as the one from LOOLA, for any new off-leash dog park in Live Oak.
LOOLA members agreed the Master Plan idea has merit, if it doesn’t delay the process of granting their request for an off-leash dog park at 20th Avenue Beach. LLASCC members asked that the Off-Leash Dog Parks Master Plan be completed before any new requests for off-leash dog parks are considered, including the present request from LOOLA.
The meeting ended with discussion with the two Parks Commission members on their perceptions of the Committee’s work and conclusions. Although no conclusions could be reached to which all participants agreed, it was clear that the topic of off-leash dogs on the beach is divisive and important to many residents of Live Oak.
The Santa Cruz County Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission will hear a report from the two Commission members on the Committee at their October meeting, Monday, October 21st at 7 PM at the Simpkins Swim Center.