In this series I will discuss examples of four types of dog parks:
Part I - Shaggy Pines - a private membership-based park
Part II - Hillcrest Park - a public dog park
Part III - Kruse Park - a public beach that allows dogs
Part IV - Lowell State Game Area - forested state landEach has its benefits and drawbacks, and I discuss those as well as my experiences taking dogs to each type of park.
Shaggy Pines is a private dog park outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan that was rated the #3 dog park in the country by PETA. “Private” means that membership is required to use the park facilities, and a membership costs some considerable dough. “Gold” membership runs $288 per year, giving your dog access to the park seven days a week during the hours of operation (7am - 9pm). “Silver” is still $228 annually but limits access to weekends only. Neither of these dues include a $39 initiation fee. For those that don’t have a membership (including my dogs), it costs $8 for a day-long guest pass.
So what does all this money buy for your dog? Shaggy Pines features 14 acres of fenced-in land for their customers divided into four sections. The main section has a lighted trail that winds around a central swimming pond. Another section is for small dogs only in case the wee ones are intimidated by larger playmates. Another section is for big dogs only, and a fourth area has a one-mile jogging trail and a large open area for playing fetch, frisbee, etc.
Despite the nice facilities, perhaps the most appealing benefit to Shaggy Pines is that access is controlled. What I mean is that member dogs have to be up to date on their vaccinations, male dogs must be neutered, and all dogs must pass a brief temperament test. While this may seem restrictive to some, what it does is ensure that all dogs at the park are healthy and reduces the risk of playtime escalating into actual fights.
During my two visits on a guest pass to Shaggy Pines I was certainly impressed — the park is well maintained and owners do a good job of picking up after their dogs. The swimming hole serves as the focal point and most dogs can be found chasing each other around the pond. The pond isn’t very large or deep; in fact I saw a St. Bernard wade across the entire thing. Most dogs use the pond to splash and cool off rather than swim anyway.
If my dogs became overwhelmed by the commotion or got a little winded, there were plenty of less busy sections of the park to go for a refreshing walk. We never had any problems with overly aggressive dogs or inconsiderate owners, reflecting the benefit of selective admission.
However, one oddity about my experiences at Shaggy Pines was that the human members were rather aloof. It’s not that they weren’t friendly, but nobody seemed interested in chatting or getting to know one another. Normally when I meet folks with their dogs, we usually exchange all the basic dog info: name, age, breed, personality, favorite game, etc. At Shaggy Pines, however, most people I talked to just continued on their way after the basic courtesy of “hello”.
Overall it’s a very nice park and all of the record-checking and park maintenance results in very little worry for dog owners. However, the cost of this security is quite steep given that there are several free options out there such as public dog parks, dog beaches, and undeveloped public lands.
Photos: Amanda Schrauben