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Volunteering at the Dog Park

College students spruce up OLAs
By Cameron Woo, March 2018, Updated June 2021
The Berkeley Project Day

The Berkeley Project Day

This past weekend Berkeley’s 17-acre off-leash area welcomed a dozen University of California student volunteers participating in The Berkeley Project day (BPD), a program that matches students with local residents for some hands-on community service. This rather remarkable day sees over 1,000 Cal students volunteering at our local area parks. Another BPD will take place in early fall, with over 2,000 students participating citywide! From painting park benches to help clear clogging creeks, the students are there to help.

The 12 students spent over 4 hours filling holes and spreading wood chips along paths in our OLA. It’s the kind of work that doesn’t always get done by the city’s gardeners but is important to the safety and enjoyment of both dogs and their peoples. Some dogs dig holes but this unsupervised activity can cause serious injury to both canines and humans. The city’s Parks and Waterfront department helped coordinate the work projects with the student organization and OLA stakeholders. The necessary tools and wood chips and soil were provided by the city, lunch and snacks were brought by the Citizens for Cesar Chavez Off-Leash Area. We also got to supervise and cheer on the students—and introduce them to the dogs.

The Berkeley Project Day is one of many volunteer-service events originating at colleges and universities around the country—UCLA, Michigan State, University of Kentucky, Texas A&M all host student volunteer days. Hooking up with these programs is a great way to augment your park’s maintenance or conquer that special project that has fallen behind.

The Berkeley students were enthusiastic, hard-working and loved the idea of donating their time at a “dog park.” Most of the volunteers are members of the Cal Marching Band and were effective working in teams, harmoniously too as befits their musical interests. It also gave the adult participants the opportunity to work side-by-side with student members of the community, building a generational-spanning camaraderie that rarely presents itself.

So, if your dog park is seeking some youthful vigor and extra hands, consider tapping into your local college’s student volunteer day—everyone will be richly rewarded! Or if you already have done so either as a student volunteer or has a park supporter, let us know.

Cameron Woo is co-founder of The Bark magazine, and was its Publisher for over two decades. He was also the magazine’s Art Director.