Dogs now have something to bark about at new park in Buellton

Pearl and Pupper no longer require a road trip just to walk in the park.

The pair of Shih Tzus can now take a stroll much closer to home, thanks to PAWS Park, which opened Saturday in Buellton.

“Now I’ll bring them here every day,” Virginia Erickson said of her canines.

She was among dozens of dog owners who brought their four-legged friends to the venue’s dedication ceremony orchestrated by Ray Mayer, president of PAWS Parks of Santa Ynez Valley Inc.

The group partnered with the City of Buellton for the establishment and operation of the valley’s first off-leash, fenced-in dog commons on public property.

“I’ve waited two years to say this: ‘Welcome to PAWS Park!” Mayer announced, to the delight of applauding onlookers on a bright, cloudless day.

He proceeded to thank sponsors and volunteers (including his wife, Jill) and Buellton Mayor Russ Hicks.

The opening ceremony culminated in a ribbon-cutting and the unveiling of a commemorative plaque and a welcoming sign that stands amid freshly planted oak trees on the park’s hillside, located at the northeast corner of Dawn Drive and La Pita Place.

A zigzagging sidewalk, replete with a handrail, wends its way up to the sprawling park, which provides a widespread view of the city.

The event featured a competition of sorts, which allowed the biggest and smallest dogs (and their owners) in attendance to enter the park first: Diego was the tiniest of Chihuahuas on hand, while Max (a colossal Great Dane) and Duke (an Irish wolfhound) were voted largest by the crowd’s applause meter.

Afterward, Hicks said the venue serves a specific purpose for valley residents, not just their pets.

“The people do so much for the community and its businesses, we wanted to give something back,” he said.

Many in attendance were grateful.

“I think it’s a great place to have a dog park,” said Buellton dweller Terry Smith, who brought along Gunther, a boxer that looked every bit the breed.

PAWS committee member Al Gately acknowledged the persistence and cooperation of all supporters, but he singled out the Mayers.

Real thanks goes to Ray and Jill, who overcame hours of work, heartaches and controversies,” he said.

Prior to the opening, Ray Mayer said the park gives the elderly and handicapped another place to come.

“It will increase socialization and is also great for exercise,” he said.

Tom Rose, who bicycled his way to the ceremony alongside Brutus, an energetic boxer, stopped by the dedication to catch a glimpse of PAWS Park first hand.

“It’s a lot closer than Santa Maria,” he said.


Jim Luksic can be reached at