We may be seeing the beginning of a new type of dog park that caters to the needs of real dogs and real dog owners. Made possible by a $200,000 state grant, New York has opened an agility dog park in Suffolk County that allows both canines and their owners to socialize in the open air. This is actually the result of two politicians, State Senator Phillip Boyle of Bay Shore, and State Senator Monica Martinez of Suffolk County. Pet lovers should be glad to know that their voices are being heard over the other rhetoric so common today.
The park opened on July 24 of this year, and has a very well-thought out design. It is intended to section off the large dogs from the small ones through a four foot fence enclosure. The small dog enclosure measures 80 x 300 feet, while bigger dogs will have a 120 x 300 foot space to roam around in. Both enclosures have two water stations each, presumably restricted to the owners’ four legged friends. There is a separate agility course that is 40 x 100 feet which deserves a special mention.
Though the agility course can get crowded at times since there appears to be no dog size restrictions on its use, owners can keep their canines in good shape by having them go through a number of different obstacles such as implanted wooden beams and suspended tires. One interesting aspect of the new dog park is leashes are optional. For those of us who are charged with the responsibility of taking multiple dogs on their early morning walks, the new concept dog park makes that (paying) job a lot easier. Of course, that presumes that all the dogs are roughly the same size.
But the park is not just for the dogs. People who have recently used the park find it a great way to socialize for both dogs and people. The aforementioned leash-less option makes it much easier for owners to have a relaxing day at the park instead of having to wrestle with a leash or multiple leashes. One of the best aspects of having a dog is that if they are properly trained, they will respond to the voice of their master. So even though some dogs look alike, they can be separated from the pack simply by calling their name. Freedom for one is freedom for all.
While critics may say this is a waste of both space and money in a crowded New York area, there aren’t many reasonable alternatives. Relatively speaking, the size of the part doesn’t take up much space at all, and it allows dogs to roam free without endangering the public or annoying people who for some odd reason are particularly fond of dogs. Always having your pet on a leash may be a solution for public safety, but in metropolitan areas it doesn’t allow dogs to be themselves despite being domesticated and serving a number of useful functions. In total, the entire domain is about one and a half acres or 64,000 square feet.
For those wondering if the large park will eliminate the possibility of people having to use their pooper scooper, the answer is owners are still responsible for cleaning up after their dogs in the park. Being one of the most recently used dog parks in the county, without responsible dog owners the park would quickly become a nuisance, and at worst, unusable. The socialization of both people and their dogs creates a community of owners that will consistently make one another responsible for keeping the park people and dog friendly for years to come.
A number of simple yet easily overlooked features have been included in the park’s design. For example, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. There are definite brown patches to be found, not of doggie doo-doo origin. In order to preserve the natural environment as much as possible, the romping room is maintained but not to the extent of being perfectly manicured. For one thing, this approach minimizes the cost and upkeep of the park. Another factor that was taken into consideration was the dog days of summer that the dog owners have to deal with. Opening the park in the month of July turned out to be a great idea, as the weather just started to heat up and the site could be tested to see how well both humans and dogs would hold up during the summer. Many trees were left in place, not only to keep the natural environment as intact as possible, but also to provide shady spots for people and their dogs to beat the heat. Thus far, there have been no complaints about places to relax and enjoy the summer days.
As for other metropolitan areas that want to duplicate this model dog park, there are several challenges that have to be met and receive a good amount of public and political support. First and foremost is finding the space to put the park. Many cities find space to be at a premium, as single family structures and apartment buildings dominate the discussion of how to best utilize the available space. Another consideration is where will the funding come from. Public lands require public approval to do anything with, so political support is needed. This reality limits the number of potential dog parks as residents wrestle with other problems such as crime, the homeless, and environmental issues.
There are people who will maintain that an acre is a lot of space in a metropolitan area to use for a dog park. But even hardened city dwellers agree that having green grass and a natural environment is preferred over another slab of concrete or asphalt. It can serve as a way for residents of the community to find an agreeable safe space for dogs and their owners.