Even though allowing children into OLAs is more of an operational than a design issue, is it usually during the design stage that this issue is addressed. Again bringing up the specter of liability issues, some communities have opted for not allowing children, even those accompanied by an adult, into their OLAs. We think this is unfortunate. It can add fuel to the children versus dog debate, and Judy Green thinks that it “doesn’t serve the dog community to perpetuate this idea that dogs are always to be feared.” Children should obviously be closely supervised in parks from all recreational activities, such as bicycling, inline skating, kite flying, as well as from dogs. Also, many families with dogs cannot afford the luxury of providing quality park time to their dogs, separate from the time they can spend with their children. Most parks do allow children but some take the precaution of noting on their signage that children under a certain age must be accompanied by an adult. Personally, we love seeing young parents with those new sports-model baby strollers wheeling their charges on the paths of the off-leash area with their dogs merrily running alongside. This goes to the essence of what these areas are all about—having a good time in our parks with those we love.
Other design considerations:
• Available parking that will not interfere with or disturb neighbors
• Compliance with American Disabilities Act requirements—service dogs and their companions should be urged to use OLAs
• Buffer Zones from neighbors who might be concerned about barking
• Conveniently-sited, covered trash receptacles and poop disposal product dispensers
• Bulletin boards for posting notices, raising public awareness, announcing training classes, etc.
• Shade trees, good drainage, maintain-able turf
• Water fountains with both human and dog-level spigots
• Clear, concise and aesthetically pleasing signage
• Benches, tables, agility equipment, swimming ponds