AJ Rassamni and his fellow dog-lovers wanted to do something nice for the dog park at Todd Beamer Park in northeast Fresno where a lack of TLC and of water has created sandy, dusty conditions and spotty grass at the fenced site.
So when one volunteer offered to provide artificial turf to Rassamni’s nonprofit to cover the east end of the dog park, and also the area around benches that tend to become muddy after rainstorms, he gave the idea a thumbs-up.
Earlier this month, the park improvement volunteers unloaded and unrolled the artificial turf, in part to see how it would fit in the space, Rassamni, who is the head of the Blackstone Merchants’ Association, told GV Wire.
But only a few days later city parks workers came along and rolled it back up.
So Rassamni reached out to city officials for help.
“Once we have all the turf needed my plan was to call your office and request permission for our association to hire a professional person to install it at no expense to the city,” he said in emails to Mayor Jerry Dyer and Councilmember Garry Bredefeld. “We will provide the city with a liability insurance policy before installation. … Please, we need your help to have the turf installed. It is a win-win for everyone as well as it is an upgrade to the park.”
Thanks for the Donation
Dyer’s response: “I definitely appreciate the initiative and seeking out donated materials for the park. However, there are several concerns with the manner in which it occurred. I am going to have the Parks Director, Aaron Aguirre, reach out to you to determine how we were able to go forward.”
City spokeswoman Sontaya Rose told GV Wire that the turf, which was installed without authorization, is being stored at a city facility.
“Before a donation is accepted, the proper procedures must be followed,” she said in a text message. “In addition, the City Council must accept the donation. Other considerations such as ADA compliance, insurance requirements, permitting, maintenance, etc., are also details that must be addressed prior to approving any donation or work on city property.”
Rassamni said he and the other dog owners weren’t aware of any of that when they initiated a citizen’s improvement project on a city park that has, quite literally, gone to the dogs.
The eastern end of the rectangular-shaped park is mostly sand. The sand that winds up on top of cement that holds a bench and a doggy drinking fountain becomes slippery, creating the potential for people to fall, Rassamni said. When dogs run through the sandy area big clouds of dust arise, causing health concerns for at least one regular visitor who is allergic to the dust, he said.
(As of Sunday there was no water coming out of the doggy drinking fountain, apparently the city’s temporary solution to a leak at the site.)
The volunteers also wanted to lay some of the turf near the benches on the south side of the park, where the bare earth tends to get muddy after rainstorms or when the park floods, Rassamni said.
He said he’s hopeful that the matter will get sorted out sooner rather than later. A meeting with Aguirre has been scheduled for Nov. 30, he said.
Meanwhile, Aguirre told Rassamni in an email that he’ll need to know the cost of all materials and labor required to furnish and install the synthetic turf, as well as “product specifications and any engineering details relating to the installation and care of the materials.”