Dog Park Troubles Cropping Up Nationwide

Ahh the dog park.

Some would classify the advent of dog parks as one of the greatest things for dogdom since the invention of the chew toy. While they have been great for dogs and owners, city and county officials are wrestling with issues that threaten the future of these doggie playgrounds.

What are they?

Dog parks are usually areas where you can let Fido roam leash free. Usually but not always fenced in areas, these are set aside exclusively for dogs and their owners. Just like your kids at an R-Rated movie, all dogs must be accompanied by an adult—though some will allow kids to do the chaperoning. Not all parks are created equal and some may even use the term “Park” recklessly. Some cities have used old pools, ice rinks, and tennis courts along with abandoned warehouses and converted baseball fields for instant dog parks. One park at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington D.C. was successfully created mainly to deter local drug dealing activity.

Business is Booming

Dog parks are being created faster than new city parks and there is an obvious reason for that. Wikipedia reports that there are now more American households with dogs than with kids. While 43 million homes have dogs, only 38 million have kids according to that sometimes reliable Wiki site.

Trouble is Brewing

The town of South Windsor, Connecticut, started up a park called a Bark Park on land located within just a few hundred yards from many private residences without checking with the neighbors. Planners didn’t consider that some folks would rather not hear barking dogs and deal with increased traffic without a say, and noise nuisance lawsuits soon followed. Increased traffic also brings parking problems if not properly addressed. Some planners didn’t realize just how popular these parks, which only started up sometime in the 1970s, would become.

Raise a Stink

Right now a controversy is brewing in Evergreen, Colorado as Jefferson County officials are considering closing the Elk Meadow Dog Off-leash Area due mainly to the excessive dog waste, although traffic and parking problems have surfaced as well. It seems not everyone cleans up after the more than 200,000 dogs that visit there every year. County workers and volunteers had gathered over 500 pounds of ignored doppings this past fall, and the problem persists. Soil erosion and loss of vegetation are destroying the area and County officials broke the news at a meeting on Feb 9, 2017 that closure is eminent.

The park started out as a dog training area in in the 1980s. In 2001, 1 acre was enclosed. Then in 2005 it was expanded to 5 acres and in 2008 trails and a parking lot were added. It now has expanded to 107 acres with 3 miles of trails making it a gem in the dog park system. Between parking, overuse and the added headache of owners not cleaning up, the park is in trouble. The latest announcement is that for the time being 2 fenced in areas adding up to about 7 acres may stay open if managed and maintained by a group of volunteers.

Plan on Trouble

As that great philosopher and sometime baseball player Yogi Berra once said, “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.” Dog parks are being loved to death. Some require permits to control the amount of use. Parking, traffic and pet waste are the scourges of a popular park. Just as Elk Meadows in Colorado has experienced, overuse can doom a popular park. Proper planning, control and volunteer support are all needed to keep a busy park operating safely for the dogs and their owners, along with the neighbors as well.

What Can YOU Do?

Based on just what we went through here, you should have a few takeaways. Number one: clean up after your dog. It’s a group effort, and everyone’s privileges can be revoked if enough people refuse to take care of their dog’s mess. Number two: read the rules and abide by them. Park rules exist for a reason, and everyone loves the dog park; so let’s make sure we keep it that way. Number three: make sure your dog is socialized. It will ensure you and all the other pooches get along nicely. Number four: have fun! What’s the point of going to the dog park if you’re not going to enjoy it?

Meet the Author: Michael Ryan

Michael Ryan is a full-time musician along with a humor, travel and outdoor recreation columnist. He's also an avid skier and golfer and has traveled extensively around the U.S, the Caribbean and Europe. His musical career takes him all over the U.S. and his wife drags him everywhere else. His weekly columns “The Life of Ryan” ran in the Transcript and Sentinel newspaper chain for several years and have been featured in the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Mile High Magazine. He is the co-founder, editor and humor columnist for ColoradoLocalLegends.com and currently resides in Morrison, Colorado.

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