Fixing SF’s parks, step by step

Six low-cost solutions to improving parks around The City will soon be implemented, including a pilot project to install a “doggie-relief station” for pooches complete with compostable bags.

The idea for simple ways to ameliorate recreation sites around San Francisco started with a marathon as a fundraiser and more than 50 recommendations from park users about what improvements they would want for any of the more than 200 parks.

One of the six winning ideas is the installation of a gravel-filled pit at a yet-to-be-determined park for dogs to use to relieve themselves.

That idea was pitched by Laura Cavaluzzo, who said she saw such a system implemented in France. She also made her own personal-size one at her home for her now-5-month-old boxer, Niko.

“He’s aware of it, but he’s a male dog and a puppy so he’s just getting used to it,” she said. Cavaluzzo said the idea is that once one dog uses the gravel pit, other dogs do as well, much like the use of fire hydrants or street corners.

The Recreation and Park Department, which is implementing the six ideas, has not determined which park will receive the gravel pit, said spokeswoman Lisa Seitz-Gruwell. The idea could, however, be the gateway to cleaner parks, especially since the project will contain environmentally friendly bags, she said.

“We’re using these super-strong compostable bags, which is great because animal waste is great for compost,” Seitz-Gruwell said.

Cavaluzo said she’s excited to see how it works and possibly extend it throughout The City, but doesn’t want the relief station to imply that it will be the only place dogs can go.

“People get used to using them. It just kind of reduces waste and makes it a little bit cleaner,” she said. “But it shouldn’t be enforced. It should encourage responsibility.”

The other five winning suggestions were to improve signage around park trash cans, install a new flag at Mountain Lake Park, simplify the class registration process, replace trash cans at Louis Sutter Playground and to plant a Big Belly solar-powered trash can at Dolores Park.

Seitz-Gruwell said some are already in the works, such as improving signage, and the rest should be started within the next month.

The money for the projects is coming from the Running Start Fund, which is a partnership between the Recreation and Park Department, the San Francisco Neighborhood Parks Council and the San Francisco Parks Trust. The fund was started when Rec and Park manager Phil Ginsburg ran the San Francisco Marathon just after beginning the post.

“It was important for us to get off on the right foot,” Ginsburg previously said about the projects. “We solicited ideas from the public because they are the ones who use the parks on a daily basis and who have a vested interest in the welfare of our parks.”

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