LIHUE — For Thomas Lovelet, the Happy Dog Playground is a treasure.
“When my wife and I moved here, we came with three dogs,” he said. “We value this dog park, and it has been such a positive influence on our lives that we adopted another dog from the Kauai Humane Society. Everyday, they get a good run there, and are cleaned up after.”
Lovelet was one of 12 people who testified during Wednesday’s Kauai County Council committee meeting about their love for the dog park and its role in the community.
“The dog park is a necessary resource,” said Leilani Sim-Godbehere a Kapaa-based veterinarian. “So for a community, this a godsend to have a dog park like this because there are so few places where people can bring their dog.”
The dog park was on the agenda after Councilman Ross Kagawa, chair of the public works and parks and recreation committee, said a county worker in charge of mowing the grass raised health concerns, saying leftover dog poop was flying into his face.
“Any communication I get about health concerns of our employees, I take it seriously,” he said.
But several residents said it would be impossible for any poop to fly into the mower’s face.
“I mow; I have three acres myself,” said Lisa Jobson. “It’s very rare that anything flies up at me, so I don’t understand the idea of the health hazard.”
“It’s surprising to hear that someone is saying they are getting sprayed with feces,” she said. “If people are working outside, I’m curious to know what they believe are health risks because there are chicken and feral pig feces on the outside of the park. They should realize that the chance of them having contracted an illness isn’t any greater in a dog park than the outside, where there’s feral chickens and pigs.”
Lenny Rapozo, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, said he personally rode on the lawn mower to show the worker the poop doesn’t fly around.
“With the deck of the mower, there is no way for it to go into someone’s mouth,” he said. “Instead, it would be spread around the park like fertilizer.”
Happy Dog Playground, a county park, opened about two and a half years ago under the agreement that users pick up their dog poop, Rapozo said.
But, over the years, the department has had trouble enforcing it, leaving a select group of volunteers to pick up the poop in the park.
“For the most part, the community has cleaned up after themselves,” he said. “But we’re still having problems, and it’s not for those who are conscientious.”
Rapozo said he’s stuck in the middle of the opposing sides.
“I want to make this work,” he said. “This is a good community project.”
While the easiest way to solve the problem is to close the park, Rapozo said that would punish the majority of the people who follow the rules.
“I don’t like closing things up because I believe there is a greater good for the community,” he said.
Residents have reported seeing a man letting his dogs run around the park at night. To solve that issue, there has been talk of closing the park at night, Rapozo said.
Either park rangers or neighborhood volunteers could be responsible for opening and closing the park everyday, he said.
Some residents, like Sarah Rogers, said they’d be willing to take on that responsibility.
“I’d be happy with opening and closing the park,” she said.
After the discussion, the public works and parks and recreation committee unanimously voted to kill the topic.
“I’m encouraged because I hear a lot about cooperation and communication,” said Councilman Arryl Kaneshiro. “We always try to do the best we can, and we need more of that (communication) around the island.”