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.