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.
Hillcrest Park is a public dog park in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan that opened in April 2005. The park came into existence in large part through the efforts of the Grand Rapids Dog Park Enthusiasts, who began their blog about the process back in November 2002. They helped to select a site for the park, an existing public park that had enough open land to fence in part of it to create a leash-free area for dogs. In fact, there are two enclosures: one for small dogs and one for large dogs.
Sponsors and donors helped fund the construction of Hillcrest Park; while maintained by the city, it is up to volunteers and park goers to provide basic services such as drinking water, clean-up bags, and even enforcement of the rules. The park does require that all dogs are up to date on vaccinations, spayed/neutered, licensed, and that young children do not go in among the dogs. Of course being open to the public means that it is up to dog owners to rely on the honor system and voluntary policing to ensure that the rules are followed.
When I brought a foster dog from Vicky’s Pet Connection to visit Hillcrest Park I must admit that I was a bit skeptical, afraid that dogs would be running wild with owners standing by indifferently. While there were more dog “mines” in the grass than I’d prefer to step over, the ground was actually fairly clean. More impressively, there was a strong sense of community among many of the dogs and owners — several of them recognized each other as regular visitors and helped to watch over each other’s dogs. It seems that the successful community effort to create Hillcrest Park has given the users a sense of earned ownership and responsibility.
Despite the positive attitudes of most of the users, there were a few bad apples among the bushel. One family brought their pre-school-age child into the big dog area, and a few folks were too busy chatting on their cell phones to bother paying attention to their dogs. When my foster dog became overwhelmed by being chased by too many dogs at once, there was plenty of room to move him away from the central area of activity around the picnic tables into a quiet corner of the park until he settled in.
The strong community feel is a great aspect that can’t be found at larger unfenced parks, and the park facilities themselves were well designed. Just like any public park you can’t prevent less-responsible owners from using it, but for the most part that was not a problem. Perhaps best of all a public park doesn’t cost a dime to use, resulting in a very attractive alternative to private parks.
Photo 1: Grand Rapids Dog Park Enthusiasts
Photo 2: Amanda Schrauben