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San Juan Capistrano bans flip-flops at dog park

Some officials question the wisdom of the rule, imposed at the suggestion of company that made playground equipment for another park.

September 18, 2013|By Paloma Esquivel
  • At two San Juan Capistrano parks, you wear flip-flops at your own risk.
At two San Juan Capistrano parks, you wear flip-flops at your own risk. (Los Angeles Times )

There are two dozen rules posted at the entrance to the new Dr. Joe Cortese Dog Park in San Juan Capistrano — no treats, no children's toys and no spectators.

And, as some city officials just learned, no flip-flops.

"I wouldn't think twice about going into the dog park in my flip-flops," said Jenny Friess, vice chairwoman of the city's parks commission, who said she was unaware of the footwear prohibition until recently.

"I don't think we need to really be telling people what to wear on their feet."

But in easygoing San Juan Capistrano, flip-flops are taboo in two of the small city's parks.

In addition to the dog park, named after a hometown veterinarian, the footwear is banned at a popular children's playground in the city's historic Los Rios District, said Tom Bokosky, human resources manager for the city.

The rule had gone largely unnoticed at Los Rios Park. But when the dog park opened in August and the rules were posted, several commissioners with the city's Parks, Recreation and Senior Services Commission were befuddled.

On Tuesday, city officials scrambled to figure out how the ban got on the books.

By the end of the day, they had determined that the manufacturer of the playground at Los Rios recommended the rule a few years ago to avoid injuries because the playground sits atop a wood-chip-like ground cover, Bokosky said.

A similar ground cover was used at the dog park so city staff figured the flip-flop ban should apply there too, he said.

At Los Rios Park, where children climbed on the playground equipment Tuesday afternoon, several visitors were amused to learn of the ban.

Carol Walsh, who brought her two children to the park, looked down at her black sandals with small heels and figured they would pass muster.

"I'm legal," she laughed.

Myra Quinn, who wore a pair of pale flip-flops, said she felt like a rebel.

"I wish I could break the law in a cooler way," she said.

The ban makes sense for children, she said.

"Probably for the adults, not so much," she added.

Bokosky said the ban at Los Rios was effective only when visitors step onto the playground area.

During a meeting Monday, some of the commissioners expressed frustration with the ban — and with the long list of rules and regulations governing behavior at the dog park.

Several even said they had worn flip-flops to the park's ribbon-cutting ceremony last month. They were told that the rule was not enforced because there is no supervision at the dog park.

"If you go to the park with flip-flops there's no one going to tell you to leave the park," Commission Secretary Cynthia Alexander said. "You're using it at your own risk."

Commissioner Gerald Muir took issue with that.

"Why," he asked, "have rules that you're not going to enforce?"

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