Council approves the naming of Maggie Houlihan Memorial Dog Park


The two-acre dog area in the soon-to-debut Encinitas Community Park will be called the Maggie Houlihan Memorial Dog Park.

The Encinitas City Council voted unanimously June 18 in favor of naming the dog park after the late councilwoman, drawing applause from residents who packed into council chambers to support the plan.

Before voting, council members shared stories of Houlihan’s love for animals.

Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz said Houlihan always picked lunch spots that accommodated dogs. And Houlihan taught Mayor Kristin Gaspar how to give injections to her tortoise that has liver problems.

“This is a no-brainer,” Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer said.

Numerous public speakers said the name is fitting given that Houlihan, who died of cancer in 2011, spearheaded animal welfare causes.

Notably, she helped found the Spay and Neuter Action Project and the off-leash dog advocacy group People and Dog Zones (PADZ).

“She actively worked so hard to promote off-leash areas in Encinitas,” said PADZ board member Laurie Michaels, adding Encinitas likely wouldn’t have as many dog amenities without Houlihan.

Ian Thompson, Houlihan’s husband, recalled how she hopped off her bike during a triathlon in Encinitas’ Japanese sister city, Hondo, to help a homeless kitten along the side of the road.

Some in the local media painted the move as disrespectful to Hondo representatives, he said, adding the officials actually saw it as an act of kindness and selflessness.

Thompson went on to say the act highlights how someone’s contribution to a community isn’t only measured by how long he or she served.

“Sometimes it’s about how deeply a person has been able to challenge our thinking about what it takes to be a conscientious member of our society,” Thompson said. “I hope you’ll make the decision to keep her memory alive.”

The agenda item was up for a vote because city code states: “generally, parks and beaches will not be named after individuals, living or deceased, except by special circumstances…and deemed appropriate by the council.”

Sanford Shapiro, one of the main drivers behind the item, noted other city parks are named after well-known locals, including Paul Ecke Sports Park.

At a later date, the council will hear an update on plans from the Encinitas Garden Festival and Tour committee to donate $7,500 for enhancements to the dog park.

The 44-acre Encinitas Community Park, located behind the Vons on Santa Fe Drive, is expected to open in early fall.

Houlihan served three terms on the council, and she was mayor twice during that time. She received more votes than any other candidates in the 2004 and 2008 elections.