Feature Article - January 2009
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Going to the Dogs

A Growing Community Trend

By Stacy St. Clair


long the banks of Alum Creek State Park, patrons frolic and play in the bright sunshine. If they have any complaints, they give no voice to them. If they have any other cares, they don't show their preoccupations.

The venue has been rated among the best beaches of its kind in the country and the visitors show why. Between their happy barking and enthusiastic tail wagging, it's obvious that Alum Creek is no ordinary dog park.

The canine playground, which was ranked the best dog beach in America last year, sits on a prime 4-acre plot along the park's large reservoir. With its rocky shores, rolling hills and wooded areas, the tract provides four-legged patrons with diverse exercise options.

Located a few miles outside Columbus, the facility is the first Ohio state park dedicated to canine recreation. It opened about two years ago, after officials recognized pet owners' desires to spend time with their dogs outside the home.

"It has been so successful that we're hearing many other places are now honoring areas of their lakes where dogs can frolic in the water," Ohio State Parks spokeswoman Jean Backs said. "There are a lot of inland lakes in Ohio, and I think this is a trend that we'll definitely be seeing a lot more of."

Indeed, progressive recreation managers view canines as an untapped customer base. There are more than 74 million dogs in the United States, and many of them have owners entirely dedicated to ensuring their well-being. A recent National Pet Owners Survey showed that even during an economic recession, most Americans would go without rather than deprive their animals of the best, healthiest lifestyle possible.

In response to the undeniable affinity for our four-legged friends, more and more dog parks have opened throughout North America. Such endeavors, however, often require an ability to deal with NIMBYs (Not-In-My-Back-Yards, for those who don't recognize this acronym), a willingness to work with patrons and creative land usage. Innovative parks such as Alum Creek prove that with a little ingenuity and dedication, tongues and tails will be wagging in no time.

"Dogs and dog owners love it," Backs said of Alum Creek. "They're thrilled to have it and so are we."