Feature Article - March 2014
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Gone to the Dogs

Design & Manage an Effective Off-Leash Area

By Dawn Klingensmith

Shade can be provided by using existing trees in the park, or by installing a fabric shade over the observation areas, Devine said. "Many pet owners will bring their own water," she added, "but it is beneficial to have fountains on site" for both people and pets.

If purchasing agility equipment, "remember that dogs of different sizes and skill levels will be using the park," Devine said. "Equipment that offers adjustable heights meets the abilities of many breeds."

Space permitting, it's nice to have a separate area for small dogs and perhaps senior or unsocial dogs as well, Grabler said.

It's also important to establish and post guidelines for dog park users including hours of operation, rules, maximum number of dogs allowed and emergency protocols. Except for special events, parks may want to prohibit food in off-leash areas since food can spark "a scuffle" among dogs, VandenBurghe said.

As for fundraising, "There are a large number of social media outlets that allow dog park patrons to connect and raise funds, which makes a dog park an excellent way to build community in any area," Devine said.

Pilgrim Bark Park founders had 50 knotty pine doghouses built and had artists decorate them for auction.

A puppy kissing booth is a creative way to raise a little cash for a planned or existing park.

"Providing the opportunity to purchase and inscribe a fence picket, brick or other site feature can be a popular fundraiser, too, especially for pet owners who wish to memorialize a treasured pet," Devine said.

Many dog parks also charge a small annual membership fee. The dues collected each year are applied to park maintenance and purchasing new equipment.

Maintenance costs can be fairly steep and require a revenue stream. Pilgrim Bark Park spends $12,000 to $15,000 per year for landscaping, cleanup, waste bags and pea gravel replenishment. Signage is repainted every two years.

With the basics in place, wish list items can be added to the extent the budget allows.