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By Brian Park

Canine lovers, rejoice. San Juan Capistrano’s dog park is finally open for business.

City leaders and residents, including the shaggy, four-legged variety, came together Saturday for the grand opening of the Dr. Joe Cortese Dog Park.

The 2.5-acre dog park features two separate roaming areas for small and large dogs, drinking fountains for dogs and their owners, picnic tables, benches and an access ramp for the disabled.

“(Dr. Cortese) contributed so much to our pets and the fabric of San Juan Capistrano. His genuine caring for people and animals continues to live on in the first dedicated dog park in San Juan Capistrano,” Mayor John Taylor said. “I know Dr. Cortese would be proud of this dog park and what it represents.”

Cortese was a beloved local veterinarian who passed away in 2008. Affectionately known as “Dr. Fleas,” Cortese was an active volunteer, serving two years as president of the Rotary Club and more than 30 years in all. He was also a founding member of the Capistrano Animal Rescue Effort, and in 2001, he was voted Citizen of the Year.

Many who came to the ribbon cutting ceremony were former clients of Cortese, including Orange County Supervisor Patricia Bates.

“Dr. Cortese was the doctor for our crazy little cat,” Bates said. “It’s a special day for me to be here to honor that kind of care that he gave to our furry friends.”

Michael Hoffman, a Dana Point resident, said he was drawn to the dog park because his 14-month-old, 103-pound Rhodesian ridgeback, Mr. Brown, needs ample room to run. Hoffman said Creekside Park in Dana Point, which features a “dog fun” zone, did not provide enough room or safety for his dog.

“This dog park is perfect, especially because you’ve got an area sectioned off for large dogs and small dogs,” Hoffman said.

The park was built by the San Juan Capistrano Open Space Foundation, with funding also coming from the Capistrano Animal Rescue Effort.

Cortese’s wife, Goldee, was in attendance and thanked the city, the foundation and its volunteers for the work and donations to build the park.

“Joe, although you’re gone, this event makes it obvious that you’re still loved and certainly not forgotten,” Goldee Cortese said.

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comments (3)

  • I went on Saturday and was beyond disappointed.

    Someone seemed to recognize that Rattlesnakes are a concern by posting a sign but then FAILED to put up any snake fencing. WHY?! Zero common sense.

    It’s a literal mess – gravel, dirt, dust, wood chips, no grass at all.

    The fencing is way too low at just 5′ high. A dog with a high prey drive can easily clear that fence into the little dog side or dogs can jump out of the park all together if something catches their eye.

    No signs reminding people that their dogs MUST be on leash to and from the gates and as a result lots of dogs not under control of their owners going up/down the trail.

    Trash can is outside the dog park gates which is not logical. It’s all flatly graded so it would appear to be a gigantic mud pit in the rain.

    The picnic area is going to lead to fights. Dogs have to first walk past food which gets them amped up, then they may pass other dogs on the trail and enter the “park” area in that amped up state. Fools wills soon be bringing their food into the park.

    There are so many dangers for dogs at this park that I feel very badly for the obviously beloved veterinarian it was named after. While I didn’t know him, I can’t imagine that anyone with a basic understanding of dog behavior would think it a good idea to put dogs in this situation.

    I did appreciate that the gates to the actual “park” swing in, versus out as well as the water stations.

    Either the city of San Juan wants the dog park to fail or they have completely forgotten that when people are in an area, they tend to spend money in that area. I will continue to drive up to Irvine to enjoy their dog park and while I’m there stop for gas, coffee, do a little shopping, meet friends for a meal, etc…

  • Christy has it pretty much nailed. The people who designed this park either don’t have dogs or are trying to pull a scam on the city. This is, by far, the worst dog park I’ve EVER been to.
    *There is nowhere to sit.
    *There is nowhere to stand, because the ground, except for a few patches of wood chips (and metal chunks of something) is nothing by a fine silt. If it were sand it would almost be better. When it’s not wet and muddy…it’s blowing dusty clouds of powdery dirt.
    *Mixed with the silt is a treasure trove of foxtails and burrs. My poor dog left the park limping from foxtails stuck in her paws. They couldn’t be removed until we got to the car because there is no place on the path or park that isn’t covered with them to stop and remove pick them out.
    *No trash cans in the park, so no need to use the poop bags. The bags will just end up being dumped IN the park and create a bio hazard.
    *You will need to bathe your dog after using this park. There is no way to stay clean (for either you or your pet).
    *Not only is the fence too short…but it’s not buried in the silty grit upon which it sits. As the dirt settles and ONE determined dog decides to start digging it’ll be an expressway for small and large dogs to mingle (and fight).
    This park is so poorly thought out that it will encourage lawsuits. What the city saved on groundcover and adequate fencing will be exponentially spent on the criminal negligence of constructing such a hazard. Dogs are safer playing along the shoulder of the I-5.

  • I have seen a little girl age 4 break her leg recently after tripping over these impossible to avoid rocks spread randomly all over our Rotory Club Dog Park that has the same very poor design and poor planning , My own dog has had to have her severely damaged toe nail amputated clear down to the skin on two separate occasions when she injured herself on the rocks while running and launching after her ball in the park in February and again 5 weeks ago ,not only did it traumatize her to the point she wont allow her nails trimmed without sedation now and cost over $150 each time in vet bills , SHe now also has been vomiting all over my house after each visit to the park if allowed to drink from the slime filled rusty water dish that should have been made of stainless steel and not cheap painted metal and plastic so it can be cleaned and the plastic plunger that shouldnt be in the same dish with the water Like a toilet for example is not in the same compartment of a toilet to keep it away from the part they drink from ) . I now have to not allow my dogs to drink from the bowl and they can no longer chase the ball or be off leash from the risk of little yappers provoling a fight with my dogs when they finally get tired of being yapped at and try leaping over the 3 foot fence that is supposed to act as a divifder . Its a gigantic waste of resources and someone goyt scammed or these people have no idea what dogs need and worse yet they dont seem to care that children and animals are subjecting themselves to serious injury and extreme levels of contaminated soil that flies all over the place into our skin mouth nose eyes and ears because there is no way to allow the hazardous waste to be rinsed away throughe roots of what should be a watered lawn to provide a safe and natural method of cleansing the park as it is watered . I heard other users tell me as they stand outside our park with their dog because they were advised by their vet that something was causing his boxer to have a blood infection and couldnt find a cause while yet another stated that theirs has developed eye infections as a result of getting dirt in the face when catching a ball on the dirt pile of riocks . Its also been pointed out that when the same neighbor asked a worker while they were doing weekly maintenance (adding pooper scooper bags and dumping the trash ) if they will remove the dangerous rocks and this was the reply and I quote ” IF YOU WANT THE ROCKS OUT THEN GET YOUR CREW IN HERE AND TAKE EM OUT !) . seriously , is this what the ROTORY CLUB intended for the people who now depend on these parks for a way to exercise our apt. bound dogs and now the dogs rely on them as a part of our daily routine , I think its not only unfair but downright shamefull of them to ignore the issues developed as a result of these poorly planned bio hazardous public facilities, and the way they talk to us if at all when we bring thee serious issues to their attention. How many more kids will have to fall and break a leg and dogs will end up getting sick or when poisoned by filthy stagnant feces and urine contaminated bowls that are rusty and slimy soil and water and how many more toe nails will need to be completely cut off or like my other dog who just became the recipient of a large gash in his paw while running over more sharp rocks . I think my next letter to the Rotary Club will be sent with the help of my attorney since they dont seem to care about listening to the people and their pets whos lives are effected by these poorly designed and easliy fixed safety hazards .intended as a safe place to enjoy our family pets .
    I have no choice now but to move or force my dogs to avoid the park and they have gotten so used to going their that even if I walked them all day around the block to avoid the park they would not be as happy as the 5 minutes they spend off leash even at the risk of being sick or injured , and its just not right they should pay to use the park intended for them at the high cost of becoming sick or injured or possibly worse if not addressed soon or totally left unused . With needed modifications , like grass ,stainless water bowls and maybe a separate basin to allow people to wash hands and dog toys off that have been rolled in dog waste and rinsed in the drinking bowls . i cant see how they didnt think of these things from the first concept and leaving us to fight the contaminated soil for lack of grass is another no brainer , a divider fence that actually divides and even a light (solar powered maybe ) to allow for earlier sunsets and after dog usage during summer 3 digit temperatures . . Its very sad to see these parks being wasted in such a way because they really are needed ., I wouldnt even mind if I was asked to ly register my dogs and pitch in a monthly usage fee each month kinda like the well watered and tall fences for the garden plots in the park ($15 mo to help the cost of watering before they closed them down , after all I would be using it daily as opposed to afraid of using it daily like I am now very sad for the whole thing to fail this way .

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