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Dog Owners Barking Over Fiesta Island Development Plan

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

The public is invited to weigh in tonight on the latest blueprint for the development of Fiesta Island. That's the nearly 500-acre man-made peninsula in Mission Bay. As KPBS Radio's Andrea Hsu reports, current users of the island are still not happy about the plans.

Dr Jean Spengel is a veterinarian. She's been working with the group Fiesta Island Dog Owners, in opposing plans to turn the man-made peninsula into a mixed-use regional park. Specifically, the group opposes the building of a road right through a piece of land she says is the only remaining large fenced area in San Diego where dogs can run free. She herself has been using the park for 30 years -- along with hundreds of other dog owners.

Spengel: They walk, they run, they bike the perimeter. It's a place where people can exercise with their dogs.

She says from a veterinarian's perspective, the contiguous space allows dogs to be socialized -- something that's not possible in most places.

Spengel: Of the 40,000 square acres of public park land in San Diego, if you exclude Fiesta Island, there are only 41 acres that are allotted to off-leash dog use. For the 700,000 dogs in San Diego County, that's not a lot.

But Mike Singleton, the principal architect of the project, says the current plan does leave dog users with 75 percent of what they have now.

Singleton: Majority of the island -- despite what people look at when they see the plan -- is going to be left the way it is. So it's just adding some additional capacity -fixing some environmental problems, improving water quality, adding a trail system -- more extensive trail system around the island. I think those are all things people will support.

He adds that Fiesta Island should be a playground for all of San Diego, including tourists. And that developing it will ease crowding at other parks on sunny, hot summer days.

For KPBS, I'm Andrea Hsu. 

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