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From left, Zorro, Duke and Temperance partake in a game of chase at Kane Memorial Dog Park Jan. 24. Kane is one of three parks in unincorporated Clark County that will receive support from the county parks department in 2019, part of a push for a more sustainable dog parks operation that DOGPAW, the parks’ operators, is taking on this year.

Those interested in hearing about Clark County’s biggest operator of off-leash areas for dogs have a chance with the organization head saying getting more volunteers would be a big push for 2019.

DOGPAW will host a meeting at the Vancouver Community Library Feb. 5. Group president Eileen Magill Cervantes said the meeting will “give an overview of where we are and where we’re going,” including talk of what Vancouver and Clark County are doing in support of the organization as well as the group’s finances.

Cervantes said the meeting would be an opportunity for “a huge push” for volunteers. She said that in one week in January she logged more than 80 hours herself in work with the group, something she was happy to do but is not sustainable in the long run.

“I want to get the board completely filled,” Cervantes said, listing specific posts focusing on IT, fundraising, sponsors, events and park operations. Outside of those willing to serve on the board, she noted that other volunteers are needed for “anything from typing to fence repair” to help reach 2019’s goal — to have all four of DOGPAW-operated parks sustainable with a balanced budget by the end of the year.

Regarding board members and other volunteers, Certanves said she isn’t a micromanager, so those looking to volunteer would be free to work on their own ideas but would have support when needed — a “you do your job, I’ll do mine kind of thing,” as she phrased it.

Cervantes said that question forms have been distributed at parks ahead of the meeting, with most of those that had come in focusing on what was happening with county support. While the city of Vancouver is providing its own funding for the Ike Memorial Park in city limits, there are three parks in unincorporated areas of the county: Dakota, just north of Vancouver; Lucky, near the CASEE complex in Brush Prairie; and Kane, in Hockinson Meadows Park.

Cervantes lauded the “amazing” county staff for their work with DOGPAW on solutions, which she said would have them taking over fencing maintenance, mowing and servicing of waste stations in the park.

“We still have to put everything in the garbage,” Cervantes noted, meaning that volunteers — but ideally park patrons — would clean up after their dogs.

DOGPAW had a board retreat Jan. 26 to discuss finances and those hashed-out numbers weren’t available by print deadline, though Cervantes said her estimate was the savings from the county pitching in would be to the tune of $18,000 annually. That number was significantly smaller than previous operations estimates closer to $100,000 per year, though she explained that recently through her direction DOGPAW has focused more of its attention on using volunteers as opposed to contracting out labor, having what the anticipated costs of running the group and parks lower moving forward.

Through a shift to volunteers, Cervantes said DOGPAW has been able to cut spending by about $1,000 monthly already.

Cervantes, who assumed the role of president in October, pointed to her 30 years of experience of public service in Santa Clara, California, which helped her pare down expenses for the group. She also relied on that experience on one side of government when talking with Clark County officials, keeping a positive tone in conversations throughout the process to get things moving.

“The thing with working with the government, at least in my point of view, is that if you treat them with respect, you get respect back,” Cervantes said. “In that kind of collaborative attitude, things happen.”

DOGPAW’s parks might also receive more frequent visits by those who can enforce rules and laws. Clark County Animal Protection and Control Program Manager Susan Anderson wrote in an email that as of Jan. 24 that division of county code enforcement had five animal control officers for a full staff. Last year, three officers were dismissed following issues at the county, which wasn’t a help for addressing issues at the park.

Cervantes was happily anticipating the increased enforcement, explaining that part of DOGPAW’s collaboration would be a stronger push on licensing animals. Money from those licenses directly fund animal control operations, the amount of which Anderson did not have readily available as the department focuses on catching up from the short-staffed months last year.

Cervantes said that through an increased push in getting people to step up and take part in DOGPAW, the group would be able to be sustainable where in past years that certainty wasn’t always there.

“I have this sense of urgency in me to right this ship and get it going in the right direction,” Cervantes remarked. 

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