Feature Article - April 2006
Find a printable version here

Special Supplement: A Complete Guide to Site Furnishings & Park Components

Planning the right park components

By Stacy St. Clair

Doggie Do

It's no exaggeration to say Metro Parks Tacoma in Washington was hounded by the public to come up with a dog park. Citizens' groups met with parks officials on several occasions, trying to find the perfect spot that could appease both pooch lovers and bean counters.

At the time, the park system faced a budget crunch not unlike many recreation departments today. Officials, who provide recreation services for the city's 200,000 residents, had even toyed with shuttering a few parks.

One of those on the potential chopping block was Rogers Park, located on the east side of town. Seventy-five volunteers from Metro Park's chip-in program spent a Saturday removing tons of brush, debris and litter. It was no small task because the park had been offline for many years with only minimum maintenance.

With a large exercise area carved out, work began on a park that both dogs and their owners could enjoy. They installed the requisite fencing, gates, paths and upgrades, but it was the park system's water fountain that really set the facility apart.

Parks plumber Mike Nelson came up with an idea only a canine could love. He proposed placing a fire hydrant in the park and converting it into a fountain. He found a 1962 hydrant that had been city surplus and retrofitted the discarded fire plug to a two-level water fountain for dogs and their owners.

With the help of parks welder Wayne Knuston—who is also a painter—they drilled, painted and sculpted it into a water fountain of doggie aspirations. For the base, they created a concrete landing in the shape of a dog bone, a difficult task given the bone has no straight lines. Before the concrete set, many park employees brought their dogs to the park and cast their paw prints.

The hydrant, which was a hit with patrons, was awarded the Maintenance Idea of the Year by the International Northwest Parks & Recreation Association in 2005.

The canine theme also was carried out in other site furnishings. The benches, which offer doggie parents a place to rest while their pooches run free, also sit on bone-shaped cement pads.

"We have had an extremely positive response from the community, and there is almost always someone there during daylight hours," says Susan Hulbert, Tacoma Parks communications director.

The park has been so successful, officials say it played a key role in the passage of a recent bond issue. Roughly 62 percent of voters gave the park system permission—as well as the tax dollars—to put dog parks in each of the city's four quadrants.

"This whole experience and the park really helps build community," Hulbert says.