Gone to the dogs' park
Expert discusses basics for a perfect bark park as City Council prepares to consider Jackson Park Neighborhood Plan.
JENNIFER WILSON | June 15
A new Northside dog park could be on its way to Temple, but building one is not as simple as finding some land and throwing up a fence. Experts say the best parks take the needs of pooches and their people into account.
On Thursday, the approval of the Jackson Park Neighborhood Plan is on the Temple City Council’s agenda, and a recommendation for a new dog park is part of that plan.
In a recent city survey, a neighborhood dog park ranked high on the wish list of many Jackson Park residents, and Assistant City Manager Erin Smith has identified a large grassy area that would be ideal.
“There’s a vacant piece of land along Nugent from 6th Street to 10th that could be converted into a dog park,” she said. “There’s a good amount of space — enough for parking for those who didn’t want to walk.”
“Jackson Park is a long way from other dog parks in Temple, and this location would be centrally located on the Northside,” she said. “It would be close for residents of multiple neighborhoods — Jackson Park, the Historic District, the Garden District, East Downs, Bellaire.”
So what makes a good dog park worth barking about?
According to Paula Powell, senior strategist for Best Friends Animal Society, there are several things that need to be considered.
One of the first things she recommended was to make sure to involve the community.
“Having community meetings and finding out what they want in a dog park will give people ownership of it and they will take better care of it,” Powell said. “Never underestimate the power of a community — especially kids.”
One acre should be the minimum size, with a 4-6 foot fence, and a double gate system at the entrance of the park. The double gates serve two functions — preventing escape and giving guardians a place to leash and unleash their dogs without the chaos of energy filled pups getting in the way.
Powell also emphasized the need for shade — especially in Texas — for dogs and people, hydration stations (again, for both the two-legged and the four-legged), benches and waste stations.
Ideally, there should be a separate, fenced-off area for dogs under 20 pounds. Speaking from my own experience, it would be helpful if this area for smaller dogs could also accommodate older, slower, arthritic seniors.
Signage clearly stating the rules of the park is a must, but the signs don’t have to be punitive. Powell noted that people are more responsive to cute and friendly signs written from the dog’s perspective. Examples of signs and other common rules for dog parks can be found here.
Exercise equipment and obstacles are another nice touch to add, and Powell suggested adding a water feature. Dogs love them and building one is not as extensive or as expensive as people think.
She also noted that lighting, although more costly, is well worth it. Most people use dog parks in the morning and after work. In the fall, when it gets dark at 5 pm, the park is essentially wasted space. LED motion-sensor lighting can remedy that problem and also increase the safety factor.
Powell highly recommends anyone thinking about designing a dog park study the wealth of information found on Better Cities for Pets. She is constantly referring to it, not just for dog parks, but for other areas of city life looking to be more pet friendly. She emphasized that this resource “really helps cities become pet friendly at low cost. “
Cities like Temple are all about attracting families, and let’s face it, pets are part of the family. Catering to people’s pets is no longer a fun luxury, it is a necessity in order to attract new residents and keep established ones living here.
Make no bones about it, a great dog park is just one step in that equation, and hopefully, Temple is on its way.
A strip of land along Nugent Avenue from 6th Street to 10th has been identified as a possible location for a Northside dog park. A recommendation for building a bark park is part of the Jackson Park Neighborhood Plan that goes before City Council on Thursday. David Stone photo