What is a Dog Park, Anyway?
A good first source to turn to is Wikipedia: A facility set aside for dogs to exercise and play off-leash in a controlled environment under the supervision of their owners. The word, supervision, is crucial because many dog owners are not aware of canine body language and stress signals. For that reason, dog parks may not be the best choice for all dogs.
Laurel Allen wrote her Master’s thesis at the University of Pennsylvania on dog parks which is a fairly comprehensive treatment of the subject and compares six dog parks on the east coast. (http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1017&context=mes_capstones)
Howard County currently has only one dog park, an off-leash area in Worthington Park, Ellicott City (http://www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments.aspx?id=1917), that was two years in the planning and opened 10 years ago. There have been no complaints in the past 9 years. Yippy skippy! An application and Tips and Guidelines can be found at http://www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments.aspx?id=4294969816.
On November 14, the Howard County Recreation and Parks Advisory Board approved a dog park/off-leash area in Blandair Regional Park, a ‘to-be-finished’ 300-acre park on 175 near Tamar between 29 and I-95. Two-thirds of the park will be north of 175 with the dog park located on the smaller south side (overpasses will convey cars from one section to the other over 175). (http://countyofhowardmd.us/blandairdogpark.htm)
The dog park is part of Phase 3 and is slated to open in 2013-14. The best map can be viewed at http://www.howardcountymd.gov/uploadedFiles/Home/Department_Content_%28PDF_and_HTML%29/Recreation_and_Parks/All_PDFs/BlandairDog.pdf - note that the dog park has been approved for Area 3 and has been in the planning for about 10 years. That is a whole generation in dog years!
Our Government Listens. . . .
Prior to a May meeting, emails were greatly in favor of the Blandair dog park (28 For, 3 Against). At the meeting, a poll of the audience revealed 19 For and 8 Against, while the weeks that followed resulted in 113 emails For and 10 Against - a grand total of 160 For and 21 Against (though some may have been counted more than once). Our government listened to the people (and their dogs). Yippy skippy!
The village of Hickory Ridge surveyed 130 residents and found that 33% wanted a gathering place; 26%, a dog park; 10%, a community center; 9%, an outdoor exercise facility; and 6%, a play field or playground (13% preferred “Other”). The Village Board/Columbia Association decided against supporting a dog park in Hickory Ridge but approved a nearby location in Harper’s Choice.
One More – Come to the Meeting!
The Columbia Association (CA) has approved and in February will begin planning a dog park in Harper’s Choice. Money has been set aside: $10,000 for the plans and $80,000 for construction. CA will present the plans at a public meeting on December 4 from 7-9 pm at Kahler Hall with Mary Kay Sigaty, the District 4 representative on the Howard County Council in attendance.
Major considerations in approving a dog park are generally proximity to residences, parking, and accessibility. The approximately 90,000 residents of Columbia value the amenities of the Columbia Association and many residents are members of dog families. See the photos of dogs in typical dog parks in this blog.
And see you at the meeting! And at the dog parks! Yippy skippy!
For background information, Baltimore Sun articles from May, July and November: http://www.baltimoresun.com/explore/howard/publications/columbia-flier/ph-ho-cf-dog-park-0524-20120518,0,3075994.story
PS – as a dog book reviewer for the past 10 years, the best book on dog parks that I have come across is Visiting the Dog Park: Having Fun, Staying Safe by Cheryl Smith (2007, $11.95, 128 pp) (see photo) available at www.dogwise.com