Feature Article - January 2011
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Dog Parks 2.0

Taking America's Dog Parks to the Next Level

By Daniel P. Smith

Pilgrim Bark Park
Provincetown, Mass.

A Portuguese fishing town, Provincetown has garnered a reputation as one of the nation's most canine-friendly communities, a status cultivated with features such as year-round off-leash beach rights, pet-friendly patio dining, an emergency pet shelter and a dog fountain on the lawn of the historic town hall. At the center of Provincetown's dog-friendly ways, however, sits the Pilgrim Bark Park, a 3-year old complex that embraces the seaside community's past and present.

"Two dogs came over on the Mayflower, so we have a 400-year canine history," explained Candace Nagle, the president and co-founder of the Provincetown Dog Park Association, the agency that oversees the Pilgrim Bark Park. "We wanted to incorporate that history alongside our maritime heritage and roots as an artists' colony."

While dogs can make use of the town's myriad dog-friendly features, the space inside Pilgrim's gates is equally captivating. Artist-made, multi-tiered benches provide seating as well as dog play while the one-acre parcel features separate sections for small dogs and general dogs.

"If you have the space, it's a wise idea to split it up," Nagle said, adding that the park's landscaping incorporates irrigation.

Nagle and her fellow Provincetown Dog Park Association colleagues have done much to make the space more than a simple dog park, cultivating a social community for the dogs as well as the humans. In 2009 comedian Lily Tomlin shared her comedic talents for a park fundraiser that not only vaulted the Pilgrim Bark Park into the national spotlight, but characterized the park's communal vibe. Additional fundraisers for the privately funded park have included a silent auction of 50 knotty pine dog houses that netted $13,000 and, during the Tomlin fundraiser, 50 artisan-crafted ceramic dog bowls that earned the park another $8,000.

Above and Beyond: Most of Pilgrim Bark Park's infrastructure is utilitarian art, including its benches, signage, poop bag stations, posts wrapped with nautical rope and a custom-built storage shed that resembles a super-sized dog house. "All [of these features] serve as necessary dog park elements, but are also art, which reflects our unique seaside community," Nagle explained

Coming Soon: Outside of buying trees for more shade, Pilgrim Bark Park is complete. Attention now turns to marketing Provincetown as the nation's premier dog-friendly community. The hope is to not only attract tourists and their canine companions, but inspire such spirited animal welfare in other communities as well.