Citizens for César Chávez Off Leash Area (CCCOLA)

César Chávez Park is ninety acres of gently rolling hills located at the Berkeley marina. Its users enjoy a variety of activities and beautiful views of the San Francisco Bay. Managed by the City of Berkeley’s Department of Parks and Waterfront, the park was created from landfill between 1960 and 1983.

Members of our group successfully campaigned the City of Berkeley to establish an off-leash dog area of approximately seventeen acres in the northernmost section of the park. This volunteer effort took over 10 years!  In 1998, the Berkeley City Council voted to establish an off-leash area (OLA) on a one-year trial basis.  And then in 2000, the City Council approved the permanent establishment of our OLA, one of the largest off leash parks in California.

Photo of César Chávez with Boycott & Huelga, his beloved dogs.
César Chávez with Boycott & Huelga, his beloved dogs.

We worked with the City Parks and Waterfront staff to assess the condition of the area, and ensure its success.  Our name Citizens for César Chávez Off Leash Area (CCCOLA) memorializes the significance of dogs in the life of César Chávez, who had two German Shepherd Dogs, Huelga and Boycott (see photo).  When Chavez died it had been his request that his brother lay him in a pine casket and bury him in a rose garden with his German Shepherds, Boycott and Huelga —a lasting vision.

Welcome to the César Chávez Off-Leash Dog Area

To all park visitors: Expect to see dogs running free, under voice control, in this area. If you are uncomfortable about the presence of gods of leash, you might consider using another area of the park.

To Off-Leash Dog Area Visitors

César Chávez park map showing off-leash area.
César Chávez park map showing off-leash area. Map illustrated by Sarah Chase.

There are few off-leash opportunities in Berkeley, so please help us to maintain this park by respecting the following rules:

  • Dogs must be leashed while entering and leaving the Off-Leash Dog Area (see map). By law dogs must be on leash In other areas and on trails of the park, please respect his rule.
  • Dogs should be under voice control.
  • Digging is prohibited and holes must be refilled—holes have resulted in injury to people and dogs!
  • Do not allow your dogs to interfere with wild life.
  • Clean up after your dog and dispose of the waste. It is helpful to pick up any “stray” poop too.
  • Respect other park visitors by not allowing your dogs to interfere with or jump on other people or dogs.
  • All dogs must be licensed, and aggressive dogs need to be muzzled.


César Chávez Park is located on the eastern edge of the San Francisco Bay, at the Berkeley marina. Take the University Avenue exit from Highway 80 and head west. Note that if you’re arriving from the south, you must take the University Avenue east exit, toward the City of Berkeley, and make a U-turn at the first traffic light, at the intersection of University Avenue and Sixth Street. Turn right on Marina Boulevard, you will pass the Doubletree Hotel, but keep going. The road will curve sharply to the left at the southern edge of the park. Follow the signs to the off-leash area on the north side of the park. You must leash your dogs as you walk up to the OLA, could take up to 10 mins. You can find a Google map with many details of the park here.

Park Rules

You must leash your dog from the park entrance (where you park) to the off-leash area. Dogs are required to be on-leash in most of César Chávez Park, including the 1.3 mile paved perimeter trail. Dog feces must be picked up. Free bags are provided throughout the park, but it is a good idea to bring your own. Dogs must be under voice control, and within sight of their owners. Dogs must not dig holes or interfere with the wildlife including birds, hares, ground squirrels, gophers and, yes, skunks. If your dogs dig, the holes should be filled back in. Note that people and dogs have been injured tripping in dog-dug holes! There is no fencing around the OLA, so if you are confused where the boundaries are, ask another dog walker. It is also wise that your dog be under voice control with spot-on recall because of the lack of fencing or other demarcations.

Emergency at the Park?

Cell phone coverage can be spotty at the park, but the Doubletree Hotel is nearby. You passed it on Marina Boulevard on your way to the park. There are two Veterinary Hospitals nearby. The closest is University Veterinary Hospital, at 810 University Avenue. Pet Emergency Treatment Service, at 1048 University Avenue, is just a few blocks further. Both are on the east side of the Highway 80 overpass, and both are on the right side of the street as you head toward Berkeley and away from the park. During the late spring and summer months there are many foxtails in the park, which can be very dangerous to dogs. So be sure to check your dog’s ears, eyes, toes etc.


photo of two foxtails
Those nasty foxtails

During the late spring and summer months there are many foxtails in the park, which can be very dangerous to dogs. So be sure to check your dog’s ears, eyes, toes etc.

Foxtails can enter your dog via the nose, ears, paws, and eyes. They can even penetrate through the skin or through genital openings. These barbed seeds can get inside the body and cause many serious problems. They do not degrade or decompose in the body, the awns are barbed in such a way that they can only move in a “forward” direction. Unless caught early, they, and the bacteria they carry, either become walled off to form an abscess or migrate through the body causing infection and tissue damage. Once foxtails have moved internally, they become the proverbial need in a haystack-notoriously difficult to find and remove.

Shea Cos, DVM, offers these tips in The BARK:

“While foxtails aren’t always easy to spot, their presence can be noticeable through various telltale symptoms, depending on their location in the body. Be mindful of the following symptoms during foxtail season:

  • Nose: violently sneezing and pawing at the nose, and sometimes a bloody nose.
  • Eyes: rubbing the eye, squinting and pain, excessive tearing or discharge, or an eye “glued shut.”
  • Ears: head tilt or violent shaking of the head from side to side, pain, discharge, or odor.
  • Mouth/Throat: gagging, loud coughing, difficulty swallowing (you will notice your pet having “exaggerated swallowing” movements, like when you have a sore throat), and possibly increased odor.
  • Paws: continuous licking of the paw or pad, or the appearance of a swollen “bubble” between the toes, or a small “hole” in the skin which is indicative of a draining tract, which is the path the foxtail is taking under the skin (pictured)
  • Under skin: formation of sores or abscesses.”

If any of these symptoms are noted, you should see your veterinarian immediately for a check-up.It is also advisable to carry a brush or comb with you, as well as tweezers.

Contact Information and Other Activities

Photo of Student volunteers from University of California Berkeley, Berkeley Project Day 3/10/2018.
Student volunteers from University of California Berkeley, Berkeley Project Day 3/10/2018.

CCCOLA has membership meetings annually. We can be found on Facebook Dogs of Cesar Chavez Park at the Berkeley Marina. We have clean up “parties” four times a year, check with us for upcoming one (posted on the bulletin board as you enter the OLA). We recently had a successful clean up day with the help of students from Cal, during their spring Berkeley Project Day, 12 students (most members of the Cal Marching Band) came out to help us fill holes. Their hard work and enthusiasm, plus their love for the dogs, were greatly appreciated.