Adding Some Bark to a Park

Redwing and Woodstock Dog Parks
Virginia Beach, Va.

By Jenny E. Beeh


It all started when some local pet owners in Virginia Beach, Va., wanted a place where their pooches could play off leashes—legally.

So the Virginia Beach Dog Owners Group (VBDOG) formed to advocate off-leash recreational areas, submitting a proposal to the City of Virginia Beach in the summer of 1999 to establish a dog park.

"There are so many apartments and condos in the area, and people don't have big fenced yards like they used to," says Susan Topping, parks and recreation supervisor. "People don't have a place to exercise their dogs."

Because the bark park idea seemed to be backed by the community, it really didn't take much hounding, and the City agreed. After some research and planning, it approved two dog parks, each about an acre in size: one at the 97-acre Redwing District Park, which opened in August 2000, and the other at the 30-acre Woodstock Community Park in the fall of 2000—both with the stipulation of a six-month trial period.

To use the park, all dogs must be registered; they have to have a city dog license as well as proof of rabies vaccination. The fee for the dog park is $3 per year. Registered users receive a pamphlet of park guidelines and etiquette, including Doggie Do's and Doggie Don'ts.

Each dog park is surrounded by a wood split-rail fence with wire mesh, and rules are posted at the gate, especially about controlling and cleaning up after your dog.

"We provide disposable bags and trash cans," Topping says. In general, she says about 95 percent of patrons are conscientious and play (and clean up) by the rules. Both parks are supervised by the department of parks and recreation, which often performs spot checks to make sure users are following the guidelines.

Overall, both parks have been well received, by human and canine visitors alike.

"It's hard to understand if you're not a pet owner, but it's a social thing," Topping says. So social, in fact, that many owners set up regular play dates with other dogs.

"That's why I call it Doggie Daycare," Topping laughs.

So far, both bark parks together have registered about 1,600 dogs.

Bark Park Essentials

Some points to consider so you don't get dogged

Appropriate site selection (location and at least one acre minimum)
Resident support
Noise, traffic considerations
Maintenance, health concerns (Disposal of dog waste is a serious health issue for any communal dog area.)
Cleanup stations (dog waste dispensers), covered trash facilities and routine trash removal
Durable turf
Environmental concerns
Wheelchair accessibility
Shade, water access (including doggie drinking fountains) and drainage
Supervision, dog registration
Posted rules and etiquette
Responsible dog owners, self-monitoring policy
Liability, dog fights, injuries
Human restrooms, pay phones
Benches and tables (outside fence)

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