This dog park update is a direct message from SWCDP President – ultimate turf decisions were made by Judi – any questions or feedback should be sent directly to Judi. But, please, before you form an opinion or react via email – read the entire update so that you understand why the necessary course corrections were made and what you can expect going forward.
ANXIOUS is the word . . .
We are all anxious to get back to dog park play – we miss our dog park – it’s just that simple. Unfortunately, knowing this does not change the fact that the turf needs just a little more time to grow strong enough to endure hundreds of eager paws and feet.
10 more days. That is what we need. Our initial temp closing projection for Fall 2020 was 4-5 weeks….that’s 35 days tops. As we approached that date, however, we could see in real time that the turf was not ready to be cut yet – two cuts being our original goal. The corrected course will include two grass cuttings between October 27 and November 4.
SWCDP will re-open on Thursday, November 5. Instead of 35 days – we will be closed for 45 days. That is 10 extra days —- to do the right thing. A very difficult decision but necessary course correction.
Our goals have not changed. We want to re-assure our members that we are laser focused on our original goals as presented repeatedly throughout this past year and more. But we are also committed to responsibly tweak the course as needed. Sometimes, for project success we must alter the course without changing the goal. Adding a few more days to the Fall Re-Opening schedule is such an example.
Shortening Dog Park Closures. One of the most pressing components in the SWCDP Five Year Plan is to improve our turf. A major turf improvement will allow us to shorten the dog park closure periods – with each year of improvements we will be in a position to shorten the amount of time needed for turf work. Fall 2020 is the first phase of our improvements. We expect this Fall closure to be the longest closed period in our new program. We basically started at a bare bones level – this foundational planting is critical to long-term success.
Transitions are difficult. This is our transitional period – and we know changes are hard for most folks. We are transitioning from a two month Spring closing and total grounds excavation & seeding (starting from scratch each year) – to – building off the 2020 foundational planting and developing a strong, returning turf. When we no longer start with nothing – we have building blocks for future. That is where we are going. We are in Phase 1 – our most challenging phase. The good news is – we are almost through this difficult period.
We don’t have to like the closures or the hard work or the difficult decisions that comes with it – we just have to support it. Please, hang in there – let’s move through this inconvenience and sacrifice together. When we look back, after we have moved through the pain – we will be most pleased with the foundational work done in 2020.
Plenty of good news. While being closed has been tough on all of us – we should celebrate all the lucky breaks that came our way. Always good to work towards ideals – but ideal situations rarely come our way. During Phase 1 of our turf renovation – we have had warm soil temperatures, fantastic sunshine, good overall weather, and proper watering due to having our own irrigation system. Our volunteer, Bob, has been babying the turf development – visiting and making adjustments as needed – almost daily. While we still need to be closed a few more days – we are very confident that our foundation planting will get off to a wonderful and healthy start.
For those who want more details of why / how we made our decisions, please read on . . .
We are really focused on developing a good root system before winter. Deep roots are a byproduct of calculated grass stressors. Mowing creates stress by removing growth, which causes the grass to respond by reinforcing itself against a perceived threat. The roots will grow deeper in order to sustain more leaf growth, and then the grass responds by growing taller. This process prepares the turf against another “attack” on its well-being. Consistent mowing is observably the best way to create dense, deep root systems. Mature turf grasses have 1′ to 2′ roots; our roots are at the infancy stage.
SWCDP will complete two grass cuttings before we re-open to re-enforce the development of our foundational turf planting.
We are on the right track and see improvements every day. But we also are focused on soil nutrition and root development – essential components for our new turf to develop and thrive. We need this initial growth period – grass blades and roots – to gain stability so that it will be sturdy enough to endure the winter – and – before we start pounding on it with our foot and paw traffic.
We expect to build from the previous season growth as we continue to develop stronger turf. Over time, we will drastically reduce the playground closed periods. While we will have Fall and Spring closings for the foreseeable future, we should be able to lessen the amount of days closed each year.
We see green grass from the fence – what is going on? Closing period is too long – we don’t care about the grass.
It’s looking great, isn’t it? We have no complaints – progress is being made. From the fence line it almost looks perfect. But those of us managing the turf project walk it almost daily. Looking at it up close – we have been watching all the very thin spots as they slowly continue to fill in. The turf certainly will not be perfect at re-opening but it will be decent enough for the playtime to resume. A few areas of concern will be soil tested and additional soil amendments will be made as needed and at the right time. It could be that some soil sections had a higher pee concentration and might need additional help. We are looking into it.
Easy to say you don’t care about the grass – but we know from many years experience managing this dog park – that members also do not like walking around in the mud either. And, some even have allergic reactions to the straw. The new Turf Renovation Program is working on these issues and more.
It’s not a golf course! Seems you care more about fancy grass than you care about the members!
Nice looking grass is only a by-product of our primary goals. Think of it like this:
If you take care of yourself – eat right, exercise, proper sleep, medical care, etc – your body is going to be healthy, strong, and in great shape. And, hence, you are also going to feel good – AND – look good.
That is basically what we are pursuing with our turf renovation. We need a solid foundation so that over time we will have a stronger and stronger turf. Our turf goals include reducing the mud issues and the enormous straw expense, our long closing periods, and other turf related issues. If we start off on the right foot and continue with vigilant oversight – and course correction as needed – our turf will thrive. The by-product of a healthy, well established turf will be great looking grass. Why wouldn’t we want that?
We were told 4-5 weeks closing – we feel misinformed.
We still believe our initial projection (4-5 week closure) was a fair way to begin this new turf program. As with any project, especially one balancing growing things with real life issues – we always knew we would need to be open to challenges and finding solutions. We did the best we could do in writing a turf plan – giving our members the very best information and vision as we had it at the time. We believe strongly in keeping our members fully apprised of dog park projects, decisions, and more. We have done this with our ongoing emails and blog posts.
We cannot give our members precision with the calendar; we can give members the plan, the goal, the intention. We do not have control over Mother Nature, how the turf responds to treatments, or how many dog members we have (concentration of paw/foot traffic) or how cooperative members will be with moving around vs. standing in one place. We do the best we can in responding to ever changing situations. What we can – and will – give our members is the commitment to make the best decisions for our dog park….short term and long term. And, to respond to challenges as they arise, tweaking the goals with course corrections, as needed.
With delays in re-opening Fall 2020 – why should we think Spring 2021 and beyond will be any different?
Once we re-open on November 5 – the worst should be behind us. That is, of course, we encounter no crisis or unexpected situation. Because we will have returning turf as well as the dormant winter seed also germinating – we expect the Spring closing to stay at the original projection of 4-5 weeks (roughly 30 days). As always, we will keep our members informed along the way with ongoing progress reports.
But – while we are talking about the future . . .
This turf development is HALF of the equation – as it relates to reducing closing periods and extending open periods. Please, remember that an important part of our Five Year Plan is to find ways to provide alternative surfaces for some of our play, standing, sitting. Shifting some of the foot and paw traffic from the grass to other substrates is vital to maintaining good turf. We can’t beat the grass to death every year – and that is what we will do if we do not include some alternative choices.
We MUST continue our pursuit (and fundraising) for walking paths, permanent climbing maze, table and bench foundations and a pavilion. These additional amenities will give us new places to play and stand….which will alleviate our core problem – beating the turf to death! We will be in a better position to keep our turf in decent shape when we are not on it constantly – the grass will get some relief as some of our play and standing/sitting will be shifted to other areas with durable surfaces. Think about it.