Two weeks ago I asked you what to blog about, and you suggested the Dog Park! A dog park in Washington? Really? Where? I know that’s what you are thinking, so here is the scoop from Julia West, a member of the Washington MO Dog Park Group.
Is there a Dog Park in Washington?
The soccer field at Burger Park is also an off-leash dog park. Burger Park is on the surface of a landfill. This limits what the city is able to do with the land. They cannot build a permanent structure or plant trees. This means there is no shade or bathroom (other than a Johnny-on-the-Spot). Another limitation for dog owners is that the park is not available to us during soccer season, when it is used as a practice field.
Why and when was your group formed?
A group of dog owners, WOOF (Washington Organization for Off-leash Fun) worked with the previous parks director to set aside Burger Park for off-leash play. This was sometime in 2010 I think. The Washington Dog Park Group formed in August 2012 as a Facebook page. We kept the name simple to clearly communitcate who we are.
As dog owners got to know each other at the park and discussed the lack of shade and water provided, we decided to talk to the Parks Director. Then we needed a way to communicate with each other and to inform other dog owners about our efforts, so we turned to Facebook. (I had been watching how Re-Discover Washington was so successful in informing and promoting and thought FB might work for us too. It has!)
What is the goal of your group?
Our primary goal is to have a full-time dog park that isn’t also used for other purposes, and that has water, shade and seating. We also believe it should be handled by the city as other parks are, and not given a secondary status. Once we achieve that, the group will continue to help dog owners communicate with each other, advocate for dog owners when necessary, and provide information about the park and other dog-related topics.
Where do the plans for a dog park in Washington stand?
In August 2013 the City confirmed that property for a Dog Park is available. The lot they’re planning to use is at the east end of the Riverfront Trail, just south of the railroad tracks.
Why is a Dog Park a necessity?
We often hear, “Why do dogs need a park?” But like any park, a dog park is a place for people to enjoy. Some parks meet the needs of a specific group. Our all-abilities park was designed for kids with special needs. The Riverfront Trail was created for cyclists and is also enjoyed by those who walk or run along it. A dog park is created for dog owners. For me, the dog park has been a place to make many new friends. I’ve met more people there than any other single place in Washington. Of course it’s also a place for dog owners to take their dogs to get exercise and to learn to socialize with people and with other dogs. The exercise and stimulation make for a well-adjusted dog with fewer undesirable behaviors. These dogs make better neighbors and members of the community than anxious, stressed or frustrated ones. I think it’s also important to say that Burger Park is an active place year-round. There are people who even go there in 10-degree weather and 5 inches of snow. Of course, they only stay a short time, but even in winter there’s a lot of traffic out there.
One drawback of a part-time park like we have now is that our dogs get used to getting that vigorous exercise on a certain schedule, but that’s taken away 3 or 4 months during soccer season (Aug-Nov). Some dog owners go to the Union park. Others find other non-sanctioned places for their dogs to run off-leash. All that will be solved by a year-round park.
How can people help with your efforts/join your group?
Since the City has agreed to provide a dog park, our biggest challenge is timing. Washington is a very active and growing community. The Parks Department is juggling a lot of projects and has the same budgeting and scheduling challenges any City department has. I think the most powerful thing any citizen can do is to let their representatives know what is important to them. If we tell our city council members that a dog park should be a priority, then it is more likely to become a priority for the Council. We’ll also be doing some fundraisers that people can support. We know the City funds are probably not going to get us “Cadillac” park. But with a little work, we can add some items the City won’t pay for.
Our first fundraiser was initiated as soon as the City designated the land they’d use for a dog park. Pet photographer Tim Ueltzen created a calendar featuring photos of some dogs who use the park. We had great support from the community in buying advertising for the calendar and buying the calendar itself. So far we’ve raised a little over $1000 — much more than we expected. Calendars are for sale at Toni’s Crafts and Home Decor, Straatmann Feed (Old Hwy 100 location).
Anything else you’d like to add.
We really appreciate all the support from local businesses and organizations. Here are just a few, those who sponsored the calendar: Animal Care Clinic of Washington, Pet Photo Keepsake, B&J Printing, Franklin County Animal Medical Center, K-9 Kuts, Straatmann Feed, Big Boys Grilled Subs and Wings, Wash MO Snow Co, Williams Brothers Meat Market, Flour Power Gourmet Cupcakes, Havin Material Service, Inc., Fern & Sycamore, and Pet Station in Union.
We’ve had a couple social events: a “Bark-B-Que” at the park, an entry in the St. Pat’s Parade (look for us again this year!), and a table at the Humane Society Trivia Night in March. Just more evidence that the dog park is a place for people to socialize, like any other park!
Like the Washington MO Dog Park Group on Facebook and stay posted on all of their efforts and events!