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Support Your Local Dog Park – Dog Parks Offer a Sense of Community For Us and Our Pets

Support Your Local Dog Park – Dog Parks Offer a Sense of Community For Us and Our Pets

It is not the norm in any average community to plan for off-leash spaces when considering a new park. Just as much as it is almost always the case that any new park entirely dedicated to dogs is created in response to some sort of public outcry or as a result of some individual or groups overwhelming generosity. Let’s face it… it costs more money to allow for dogs in any park because of the fencing, permits, EPA regulations, plumbing, planning, hardware and maintenance. We as dog owners must request, if not demand that our pets have the freedom to be true to their species and be allowed some part of public space to simply be themselves. There is much that we can do but we have to be willing to make our request and allow for the financing in the way of taxes for public spaces. It is our responsibility to ensure that our local government knows that we want dog parks and off-leash spaces for our pets and that we’re willing to pay for it. Just as it is up to us to be responsible dog owners with well balanced dogs and train our pets well so that we may overcome any stigma that may exist as a result of bad dog owners before us…

It’s not usually too hard to find dog parks in your area… you can pretty much ask any person you see with a dog. Every other one should be able to tell you about all the dog parks within a 50-mile radius. You can try checking with your local park service but they don’t often have very well informed or up to date information on their websites. If you are going to contact them I would recommend just calling. Once you know what parks there are you should stop by and check it out. Try going on a Sunday afternoon if you want to be around other people and dogs – if not than try any weekday before 4pm. What do you think? Is it everything you thought it would be? Was there even any park to go to? Did you have very high hopes? From my experience a great dog park is a rare gem. We are lucky enough to have 2 in our area. Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood, Washington (just outside of Tacoma) has a huge amount of acreage dedicate to dogs. And Magnuson Park in Seattle has an enormous dog run with lots of little areas and an opening to the Lake Washington. We are truly blessed with these parks but they took some serious doing to bring them to fruition. The off-leash area at Fort Steilacoom Park was over 5 years in conception and I’m not sure about Magnuson but I would assume about the same.

From my understanding the process for opening a new dog park or developing any space in an existing park goes something like this… first you have to find the motivation. Maybe enough local residents band together a make a big stink and manage to motivate the local officials. Or maybe enough motivated people get a petition together and propose it formerly to their local government. Either way the motivation has to be found to begin the process and once you have that you’re formerly involved in the great bureaucracy! I attribute this point of the process to “hurry up and STOP!” Now the idea is formerly proposed and on the agenda. This is usually committed to for something like six months to a year. The idea is to confirm that the park is something worth pursuing and more importantly… is there funding available? The answer is more often than not going to be no. Parks are usually only created or updated when either the city or county is going through a rejuvenation process or the money for the idea is gathered by an outside organization or donated by a philanthropist. That’s not to say that it can’t be done. The good part is that at this point you only need enough money to propose a study.

This is when it helps to have a plan B – Make a BiG stink! Send e-mail after e-mail. Mail letters. Call any and all local officials that will take your calls. The idea is to make sure that any one individual or individuals knows personally that the need exists. If it’s in the politician best interest to accomplish a task than it will get done… and if that means no more letter or phone calls from you and all your puppy lovin’ buddies – so be it. Let’s just assume at this point that we have at least some of the money or we’ve managed to motivate a few local politicians. Now we get to perform a study. The parks service gets to call all their buddies in for surveys and testing to see if the EPA is going to allow the park and how much more money it would take to bring the park to fruition. From the fence posts to the water lines there is a specific figure it will take and the local government needs to know what that is.

During the study it’s important to remember to call your local bureaucrats and ask politely if there are any updates. Of course they won’t have any info for you and will most likely refer you to the parks service website but we can’t forget that persistence is key. Once the study is completed – which usually takes from six months to a year – and the it looks likely the EPA will approve the park we can be hopeful the park will be brought for a formal vote by the powers that be. This is where it helps to know who is who in your area. Make the calls and send those letters. All the same rules apply. There is power in numbers. The will and the money have to come from somewhere… and there is no reason that it can’t be inspired by you.