FOSTER CITY — For eight years, the Foster City Dog Park has been a haven for dogs of all sizes.

All those years of wear and tear have taken their toll on the park, however, leading Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Miller to take action by closing the park from Feb. 2 to March 16 for some much-needed improvements.

Miller said the city has hired contractors to install new synthetic turf in both the large and small dog-play areas, which will help reduce the odor that lingers at the park. Other improvements include better lighting for those who bring their dogs at night, improved drainage at the drinking fountains, a new picnic table and bigger signs displaying the park's rules.

"I believe it's probably one of the most popular dog parks in San Mateo County, so it gets heavy, heavy use," Miller said of the facility, located off Foster City Boulevard. "It's a good site, and I know the community enjoys it."

With Halloween parties and breed-specific club meetings for the pups and their owners, the people utilizing the park have extended far beyond Foster City residents. San Bruno residents Kay and Richard Helfant bring their Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Zoe, to play at the park regularly and attend the Cavalier Club meetings once a month.

"We drive all the way down here because we've been to every dog park in the Peninsula and this is by far the best," Kay said. "I have to say, I was excited when I found out they were going to put a new lawn in."

"Certainly the turf has seen its day," Richard added. "It's stinky and it's dirty. It's certainly time for an overhaul."

Miller said synthetic turf technology has vastly improved since the park's opening in October 2000. Some turf types are now made specifically for use in dog parks. He said the new turf will be tougher and look better than the existing surface.

"We think it's a better product," Miller said. 'We think they're going to like it."

Tess Hunt, a Foster City resident who moved from Pacifica about a year ago, said the dog park was one of the first things she found in her new city. She has been bringing her two rescued Chihuahua mixes, Gomez and ChiChi, to the park several times a week ever since.

"It's in amazing shape considering the amount of dogs "... and the size," said Hunt, adding that the new lighting will be a good improvement. "That will be nice for the winter months when it gets dark so early. I've seen people out here with flashlights because it's so hard to find the mess."

Miller said the brighter lighting is specifically for the safety of those who visit the dog park at night until its closing at 10 p.m. He said the city aims to "provide them with a safe environment, allow them to get back to their car safely, and use the dog park safely."

Lee Port, a Foster City resident who brings her two bichon frisés, Mister and Buddy, to the park every day, said she is excited for bigger signs explicitly stating the park's rules, which include a three-dog limit and a requirement to pick up after your dog and keep it on-leash until it is within the park.

"This dog park, not that I'm bragging, has become known throughout the country as one of the best," said Port, who sits on an informal residents committee that advised Miller on the park's overhaul. "(Miller is) very interested in maintaining the park and (its) reputation."

Miller said he does not believe the park will reopen any later than March 16. While the Helfants said they will explore other dog parks in the interim, Port said Buddy and Mister will have to make do with the backyard, though she expects them to voice their disapproval during their daily dog-park time.

"My dogs are going to drive me crazy from 3 to 4 every day," she said.

Off-leash sites
In addition to the Seal Point Dog Park at 1801 E. Third Ave. in San Mateo, Foster City residents can use the dedicated off-leash areas at the following city parks during designated times:
  • Edgewater Park, at the corner of Edgewater Boulevard and Regulus Street, from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m.
  • Boothbay Park, at the corner of Edgewater Boulevard and Boothbay Avenue, from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m.
  • Catamaran Park, at the corner of Shell Boulevard and Catamaran Street, from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m.
  • Sea Cloud Park, at the corner of Pitcairn Drive and Sea Cloud Drive, from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Sunday.
  • Farragut Park, at the corner of Beach Park Boulevard and Farragut Boulevard, from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m.