inPERSPECTIVE / DOG PARKS: Barking Up the Right Tree
If your community is planning or revitalizing a dog park this year and you are wondering where to start, you're not alone. Between the tremendous growth in the number of dog parks over the past decade and the desire for safe, socially distanced outdoor recreation that the pandemic put into the spotlight, dog parks continue to be one of the most popular and highly used amenities within a parks system. But much like dogs themselves, not every dog park is alike. There are many variables that affect the success of a dog park, from weather-related considerations to surfacing, selecting the right equipment and so forth. These tips may provide guidance toward the most suitable dog park equipment for your space along with planning recommendations.
UV and Color Considerations
When it comes to color choices, it's always a good idea to think about your climate. Why? Some colors (we're talking about you, red!) are prone to fading. Over time, UV rays break down the chemical bonds in paint and other coatings—you may have noticed this with cars, and the same is true for play equipment. Red, though cheerful and eye-catching, may not be the best fit for certain locales. Other factors that may impact fading include solar light (a fancy word for sunshine) and heat. Regions that are typically sunny and hot year-round may want to shift toward equipment that is blue, green or anything lighter in color to absorb less heat for longer-lasting pigment.
Zones that see milder, more temperate weather like the Pacific Northwest or certain areas on the East Coast and Midwest, are still good fits for the more brightly colored components.
If you're looking for something outside the primary color combos often seen in parks, selecting a manufacturer that offers custom colors can give you a result that's both unique and attractive.
Say No to Rust
Make the most of your investment by purchasing equipment manufactured with rust-proof, durable materials. From both a longevity and "green" perspective, aluminum offers the stability of steel (particularly when it is reinforced) along with sustainability due to its recycled content. For instance, aluminum used in commercial dog agility equipment can contain up to 85% recycled material, and the agility components themselves can be fully recycled at the end of their lifespan.
Along with the rust resistance that steel does not have, aluminum also has the advantage of being lighter in weight. In these days of higher shipping costs, this translates to more affordable transit options such as FedEx or UPS Ground compared to LTL trucking costs, and easier installation since the individual pieces weigh about half as much as steel. Another perk of aluminum is its heat distribution; compared to steel, aluminum stays cooler to the touch in hot weather. That's a win-win!
Certain plastics such as recycled polyethylene and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) are also good candidates for dog park equipment with a few clarifications. Though quite sturdy and available in a wide variety of colors, HPDE is best used in a jump, signage or as support posts. The plastic itself is inherently slick, and even with the addition of step strips or some other way to add traction to an agility ramp, it should never be used on walking surfaces because it can still be too slippery under dogs' feet. You want your park users, both two- and four-legged, to use and enjoy the equipment, and dogs who slip or otherwise get frightened while doing agility may be less likely to want to try it again.
If we've learned anything the past two years, it's to expect the unexpected. What does that mean when it comes to dog park planning? Start early and plan well ahead! Between material shortages, supply chain issues and transit-related delays, there are more hurdles to clear now than pre-COVID.
Lead times may be several months out, so submitting your order sooner rather than later will help ensure your park will open on time. Be sure to give yourself a buffer when it comes to shipping; many freight carriers are still understaffed yet moving the same amount of cargo and have not been able to guarantee specific delivery dates. Adding a week to the estimated ship date gives you some wiggle room in the event of unexpected delays (and may help keep your sanity in check as well).
Lastly, consider some flexibility with colors and specific components if you're in a time crunch. Does the dog park vendor stock products, and if so, what's available? It may not be in the exact color you'd prefer but would arrive quickly and be worth the tradeoff.
Good luck and happy dog park planning! RM