The Turlock Parks, Recreation, and Community Programs Commission rejected a $35,000 donation to construct a new Turlock dog park Wednesday night, as the donation was tied to a controversial renaming of a landmark park.
The donation from local pet store Pet Extreme would have allowed Turlock to move forward with long-held plans to construct a new dog park at Centennial Park, located on Countryside Drive near Monte Vista Crossings. But the donation was contingent on renaming the park “Swanson Park,” in honor of the family who owns Pet Extreme.
The renaming failed on a 3-2 vote.
“The concern of the three dissenting members was really just based on the fact that Centennial Park represents the 100-year anniversary of the City of Turlock,” Turlock Parks, Recreation & Facilities Department Superintendent Erik Schulze said.
Commissioners Barney Gordon and Mike Dowd supported the renaming, while Bella Daniels, Jeremy Rocha, and Brent Bohlender were opposed. One resident also voiced opposition to the renaming.
Centennial Park was named in November 2007 in recognition of the city's centennial celebration. The park contains 100 trees, referencing the centennial, and a plaque with the names of those who donated trees.
The Parks, Recreation and Community Programs Commission agreed to site a new dog park at Centennial Park on July 12, 2011. Progress has been non-existent since then, as funding was not available.
The Centennial Park dog park would resemble a scaled-down version of Turlock's current Sunnyview Park dog park, with simple fenced-in runs, benches, and a doggie drinking fountain. Building the dog park is projected to cost $44,684; the city was to shoulder the difference in costs.
The Swansons are among Turlock's most successful families, with a lineage tracing back generations, extensive land holdings, and numerous successful businesses which employ over 100 people.
Commissioners were appreciative of what the Swansons have done for Turlock, but considered the “Centennial Park” moniker too important to change.
“They definitely appreciated the offer, but they couldn't get past changing the name of a landmark park,” Schulze said.
A compromise voiced by commissioners may see the park renamed with a combination of the two titles, perhaps as the “Swanson Centennial Park.”
This isn't the first time a donation to build a dog park at Centennial Park been put on hold due to naming concerns.
Rob Santos, veterinarian and owner of Monte Vista Small Animal Hospital, offered to donate as much as $20,000 to build a Centennial Park dog park in August 2011. He also offered to donate an estimated $8,000 worth of amenities to the park, such as dog tunnels and seesaws, and road signage directing travelers to the park.
At that time, Santos requested some sort of sponsorship rights, which would have seen Monte Vista Small Animal Hospital be featured on a sign though the park's name would have gone unchanged. The commission balked at the time, and never took Santos up on the offer.
“Commissioners Steven Nascimento and Barney Gordon were supposed to contact me after fundraising tiers were released to the public so that sign recognition opportunities would be fairly announced,” Santos said. “They rejected my donation; we contacted them several times but they never contacted me again. We wanted to make this a destination for the community and visitors of Turlock.”
Santos went as far as emailing City staff to propose raising all the funds under a non-profit. City staff never responded with any decision.
The Parks, Recreation, and Public Facilities Department will now contact the Swanson family, Schulze said, to determine how to proceed. The matter could be advanced to the Turlock City Council for approval despite the commission vote, or the Swansons could agree to a name change.
No mention of the Santos donation was mentioned by the Commission or City staff.
A decision on how to move forward with the project is expected in the next week, Schulze said.