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A longtime Fullerton dog park is going to be moved from the Hunt Branch Library to the Brea Dam Park.

Fullerton City council members voted Tuesday to shut down and relocate Pooch Park, with mixed reactions from residents.

City officials are looking to turn the Hunt Branch Library into a cultural center and use the dog park for a parking lot, according to a staff report.

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Over the course of the pandemic, residents asked city officials about the dog park reopening as much as the playground reopenings, staff said. 

“During the height of the COVID-19 shut-down, the Department received as many calls requesting information on the Pooch Park reopening as it did about playgrounds,” reads the staff report. 

The park will be moved to Brea Dam Park on North Harbor Boulevard in the flood control basin owned by the US Army Corps of Engineers. 

Staff estimates $250,000 to $300,000 in costs to move the park. The money is expected to come from a $266,093 state grant allocated for park acquisition and improvement projects for urban cities.

Some dog park regulars object to the move and lament the loss of a nearby community area.

“It feels like I’m in my own backyard,” said Anaheim resident Vicky Suazo who said she has brought her pups to the park daily since its opening 14 years ago.

Suazo says it beats other local dog parks because of the people; accessible parking; and the three fenced sections for big dogs, small dogs and a wood chip area. 

The park sees hundreds of people and dogs on a given day, many of which are regulars, she said.

The traffic on North Harbor Boulevard at the new site is potentially hazardous and will drive Suazo and her friends away, she said. 

According to the city, the new location is more central and accessible to Fullerton residents.

Other dog owners say they will happily attend the new park location, citing the need to socialize and exercise their dog. 

“I would go if they move,” Sam Rejba said. “As long as they maintain it.”

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Volunteers for the nonprofit Fullerton Dog Park Foundation manage the park’s daily operations like opening and closing, but the city staff is responsible for park maintenance and improvements.

In the past several months Pooch Park visitors have noticed a drop in maintenance efforts by the city.

“They really just let it go,” Rejba said, adding that the grass went weeks without being cut and grew over a foot tall.

Rejba ended up paying a friend $50 to mow the lawn instead of waiting for the city.

The nonprofit that operates the park does not have a functioning website, has not posted on social media in several months and hasn’t provided financial information in the past three years according to Guidestar

According to the staff report, the nonprofit gave full approval of the site relocation. 

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The nearly one-acre park will include a turf area with two separate yards for small dogs and large dogs, as well as drinking fountains, benches, trash cans, and ADA pathways, according to the staff report. 

Officials chose the site for its existing shade, restrooms, and parking accessibility. It is also not next to any residential areas that could be disturbed by barking. 

Concerns were again raised by parks and recreation board member Jensen Hallstrom at the Tuesday meeting about the new location’s proximity to environmentally sensitive areas, including Brea Creek. 

Since the site was already a park, the environmental impact report was unnecessary, according to the staff report. 

Biologist Robb Hamilton said in an interview that there isn’t a significant endangered bird population at the park. 

According to the birdwatching and data collection website, eBird, threatened birds like the California Gnatcatcher and the Bell’s Vireo have been spotted in Brea Dam Park in the last year. 

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