Chris Faust is doggedly dedicated to his neighborhood, and the credit for that goes in large part to, well, to his dog.
It was Grover, Faust’s 5-year-old terrier border collie mix, who introduced the 30thStreet resident to neighbors he’d never met and causes he’d never considered.
“The thing about having a dog is that you have to be out [walking the dog] two or three times a day at least, and you start to notice your neighborhood, you run into your neighbors, you talk to them.”
Grover was just a pup in 2007 when neighbors and the Recreation and Parks Department worked on the renovation of Upper Noe Recreation Center, including the canine romping ground in the southeast corner called Joby’s Run. The existing run was already borne of a hard-fought battle waged by neighbors Niel Mosher and Joby Shinoff. (Shinoff died of cancer before the new run opened in his name.)
Faust joined the other “regulars” at the run in the evenings and enjoyed socializing and talking politics, but the group really came together when the necessity of an improved dog run was called into question during the center’s remodel.
“I wasn’t political at the time, but I realized we had to spring into action,” he said. Dog lovers made their voices heard, and the new dog run moved forward with the department’s plan, the L-shaped run with the new Day Street entrance.
Faust and fellow dog owner Pete Woulfe visited City Hall and attended meetings to follow the work’s progress. Even after work was complete, they pushed for a high-quality play surface, benches and clean water in the drinking fountains.
They started Friends of Upper Noe Dog Owners Group—FUNDOG, to maintain the run and advocate for dogs and their guardians. They take the garbage bins out twice a week, sweep and rake the run, and of course pick up dog messes left by less conscientious visitors. Neighbors and visitors have complimented FUNDOG, but that’s not the payoff, Faust said.
“Dog parks are community centers,” he said. The Joby’s Run community goes beyond neighborhood bounds and attracts canines and their owners from all over the city. Woulfe, for example, does not even live in Noe Valley, Faust said.
Because many owners congregate in the evenings and at night after work, they also serve as a deterrent to vandals, calling the police when they see mischief on the basketball court, for example. And when graffiti does appear, Faust will paint over it himself if the city is delayed.
Faust is also active in his Neighborhood Watch group, and he is a trained member of the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team.
Friends of Noe Valley Recreation Center owe Grover a bone.
“He’s totally made a difference in how I treat my neighborhood,” Faust said.
Art, Gardening and Sports at Summer Camp
Upper Noe’s toddler classes may have long waitlists, but the two remaining on-site summer camps for tweens have plenty of openings, says Program Coordinator Levi Johnson.
In the June camp sessions, 8- to 12-year-olds have thrown themselves into urban-style art and a wide range of sports. Spray paint in hand, the kids made a graffiti mural on butcher paper, and they can look forward to mask-making and other paper crafts, Johnson said. The kids play less well known sports like circle football (a European-imported soccer-football combination game) and indoor street hockey alongside old favorites.
“They all love the kickball and the dodgeball,” Johnson said.
An urban farming component to the camp has been surprisingly popular, Johnson said. This year two instructors from Seattle have planted gardens with the students, putting special emphasis on urban adaptations, like growing potatoes up a pole to make best use of space.
Two sessions remain: July 5 to 15 and July 18 to 29, each costing $244. Financial aid is available and can cover at least half of the tuition and sometimes all of it, he said. Camp runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with extended care available from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Call 415-970-8061 for more information.
Upper Noe is also the base for off-site summer camps for tweens—surf camp and skateboarding/BMX/surf camp—but both of those are full.