A dog park is a designated area where dogs can play and socialize safely off leash with other dogs and people.
Dog parks are an asset to any community because they help people and dogs be more active.
Dogs that are stimulated, exercised and socialized make better pets and better neighbors. People experience behavioral issues with their dogs usually because of lack of mental stimulation and exercise; i.e, they get bored so they act out. Utilizing dog parks is one way for dogs and their parents to get exercise and stay healthy. Dog parks also help dogs to become more socialized. Properly socialized dogs tend to be better behaved not only at home but also in public, around other people, and around other dogs. Most dogs that are in shelters are there because of unresolved behavior issues that can often be solved by training, exercise, and socialization.
Community involvement is going to be crucial. Since the biggest obstacles to a dog park are property and fencing and we've already been given the location, the next step is fundraising for fencing and amenities (such as poop bag stations, benches, dog pools, etc.)
Harmon Park. It's over an acre and is especially great because it already has restrooms, water, and parking!
Since this issue has already been on the table in the past, we are merely trying to resurrect it where it left off. A dog park is already a part of the Master Plan for Harmon Park, so the foundation is already there. It's my understanding that once we have a committed team, we can proceed with the intricacies of design and construction.
There will be a public meeting at the Library Annex on Wednesday, Sept. 12 at 6:30 p.m. for anyone interested in helping and learning more.
Designing the dog park so there is separate area for large dogs and one small dogs is very important. I have been to dozens of dog parks from Florida, to Michigan, to Illinois to Oregon and have rarely seen a scuffle. Granted, when you get 15-20 dogs in an area there may be some posturing (fur raised, stiff tails, even mounting), but that can be normal even if you get just 2 or 3 dogs together.
The main concern with dog parks usually isn't the dogs, it's their people. People need to be vigilant and watchful. That's why most dog parks, while they have benches for sitting, don't advocate mingling in groups for extended periods and certainly not bringing food or treats into the park. Again, it's like playground for children; you wouldn't leave your child unsupervised for extended periods of time or introduce toys/games, etc. that may agitate other visitors.
As far as organization goes, there are rules, many of which are common sense. However, most dog parks have the same basic rules: vaccines required, pick up poop, no dogs in heat, no aggressive dogs. Some parks have dozens of rules (including spayed/neutered dogs only, no spiked collars, no children under 4' tall, etc.), some have less. It all depends on the vision people have for their community, beliefs about responsible pet ownership, and safety considerations (of both dogs and humans).
Maintaining a dog park is not very time-consuming, costly, or challenging as long as folks comply with basic dog park etiquette, which is quite simple: pick up your dog's poop, dispose of it properly. If your dog digs a hole, fill it. Don't litter. It's essentially the same type of rules you would see at any playground with the exception of picking up poop. Of course we would need a small crew of volunteers to handle trash, orphan poop, mowing/raking probably once a week, and those who use the park, both citizens and tourists, should understandably expect to contribute nominally to the cost of its upkeep and improvements.
Most of the challenges have to do with commitment of volunteers to make it happen; fundraising and hands-on efforts are critical for any dog park to be successful. I suppose the most unique challenge we have being in a Historic District is the fencing: what HDC will allow and whether or not could be cost-prohibitive. Also, the property may need some grading and some stairs.
*9. How expensive would it be to put in?
That depends on how many amenities we have, what type of fencing we use, and how many folks are willing to donate their time to make it happen. It could very easily cost less than $10,000 since we already have the land. Many dog parks are works in progress and as funding permits, improvements and additions are made (i.e. agility equipment).
*10. What sort of time frame are you imagining at this point?
I am an eternal optimist and I have already seen how many people in this town love their dogs; so I would say I could see us opening the gates in the spring!