Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

April 2014

Dog Park Popularity Leads to New Association

The statistics are in: There are more dogs in U.S. households than children these days. Spending on pets is at an all-time high, with people choosing premium products, healthier foods, more frequent veterinary visits and regular trips to the groomer for their canine companions. People want their dogs to be happy, healthy, look good and smell good. People also are spending more on training, boarding and dog daycare than ever before. It is no wonder, then, that of all the features to choose form, off-lead canine play areas lead the list in planned additions to recreation parks throughout the United States. It is also estimated that canine-specific parks will continue to grow by leaps and bounds—not only in major urban areas, but in small towns, gated retirement communities and even rural areas.

"The growth in dog park popularity is almost mandating an organization to help people find answers to questions they have about a multitude of things regarding starting or maintaining a dog park," said Roseanne D. Conrad, president of the newly formed National Dog Park Association.

After struggling for almost four years to develop a member-based dog park in her rural area in Central Pennsylvania, Conrad knew that starting the association was something she was called upon to do. She and her staff want to provide an organization to assist and support developers, administrators and managers of existing and developing off-lead dog parks in their missions to provide a safe, clean, exciting and healthy recreational park for canines and their human companions.

"I have talked to a number of people who have struggled in their attempts to get dog parks started in their respective communities," Conrad said. "Zoning ordinances, community misconception and funding constraints are some of the problems voiced, but there are other concerns as well. In the excitement to open a dog park, some developers have created parks where problems exist almost from the start. Lack of proper planning can really make a mess of things."

Conrad is no stranger to parks, recreation and dogs. She currently serves as executive director of a sports and recreation park (for humans) and as corresponding secretary of a newly developed 10-acre, off-lead member-based dog park in Central Pennsylvania. She also is in the planning stage of developing the first bike park in the same region. She has decades of experience in nonprofit administration, fundraising, promotional marketing with a concentration in special event planning and implementation.

"My love of dogs stems from the cradle," Conrad said. "I have always had a dog or two by my side, and they absolutely define who I am."

Conrad's business, GPPInc., will manage the NDPA and plans for programs and benefits are developing. NDPA will provide the opportunity for annual memberships in a variety of categories.

"A priority is to start a standards committee who will be charged with developing a set of standard practices for which municipal and private dog parks may refer to during the planning, building and operating phases of their parks," Conrad said.

The organization will provide consultation in many areas of dog park development and management, including research, feasibility studies, planning and development, marketing, graphic design, website and social media development and networking. Other benefits are being researched, including a group liability insurance plan and product discounts from manufacturers and distributors.

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