Dog parks or Off-Leash Areas (OLAs) area a great benefit to any community. The ability to exercise off-leash, in a designated and safe environment can contribute to the health and well-being of dogs in significant ways. Most dogs require the kind of exercise and movement that they just can’t get at the end of a leash. Off-leash, they are able to run, fetch and play to their heart’s content. When properly monitored, dog parks can act as a way for dogs to socialize in neutral territory. Whether learning to engage one-on-one, meet new dogs and people, share or play—well supervised interaction is invaluable to a dog’s socialization. Dog parks can be equally beneficial to the dog guardians and the community as a whole, acting as a social center for people who share common interests and concerns. People swap training and health advice, and compare tips on everything from dog-friendly destinations to vet recommendations. Dog parks are a hub of social and physical activity for both dogs and people.
Today, communities large and small are recognizing the value of a well-run dog park. Off-leash areas are springing up all over the country and are proving to be one of the most sought after park developments for city municipalities. The idea for The Bark was born in a dog park back in 1997, as a group of dog people worked with the city of Berkeley, CA to develop a 17-acre off-leash area at the site of a reclaimed garbage dump alongside the bay. Bark knows firsthand the many obstacles to securing an official off-leash area. We often hear from readers who are interested in starting their own OLA or working towards renovating/expanding existing facilities. Funding such projects is one of the biggest challenges but with an organized effort and imagination, there are some creative ways to raise the capital required. Here are some of our favorites:
Grants and Awards
There are some significant grants and prizes available for building and renovating dog parks. At the top of the list is an annual contest sponsored by PetSafe® which awards five monetary prizes to worthy projects—the top winner receives $100,000 and four runner-ups are awarded $25,000 each to fund their projects. The Nutro™ Room to Run™ program works to enhance existing dog parks with landscaping, signage, benches and agility equipment. The Stanton Foundation based in Cambridge, MA, provides grants to “take a community from start to finish on a dog recreational space”—all of their current participants appear to be based in Massachusetts. Community funding grants can also be found at Petsmart, Petco, Target and Walmart.
Memorials and Dedications
One of the country’s finest off-leash areas, Marymoor Park in King County, WA (near Seattle) helps support their 40-acre leash-free facility through their Pet Memorial Garden. The garden is dedicated to celebrating and honoring a living, lost, or deceased pet. The memorials include dedicating benches, trees and plantings, installing stones and pavers, and interring cremated animal remains in the celebration wall. Each remembrance option is paid by the donor, the money contributing to maintenance of the park. The Cosmos Dog Park in Gilbert, AZ, sold nearly 1,400 bricks for a special memorial wall over the course of six months. Public facilities from national parks to colleges have long utilized naming rights to fundraise for their programs. Tapping into the generosity of OLA users and dog lovers to honor their canine friendships through well-designed memorials seems a fitting way to support such a vital community resource.
Banding together with like-minded organizations to support and share facilities is a growing trend where resources and space are at a premium. A number of dog parks have added agility facilities to enhance their appeal and usage. This opens the door for funding and additional revenue streams for rental and events. Other municipalities share exercise and agility equipment with police and SAR teams who utilize the space for training their K9 partners. Dog parks in Provincetown, MA and Palm Springs, CA have tapped into local artists’ creations to enhance their grounds with art and architectural elements. Corporate sponsors such as West Paw Design have helped establish dog parks in Bozeman, MT, providing both their expertise and funding. One of the most unique partnerships is the one between the Historic Congressional Cemetery and the K9 Corps in Washington D.C. The non-profit association that oversees the cemetery has worked out a mutually beneficial arrangement with the K9 Corps—a group of dog owners who have helped safeguard the grounds by their long time presence and commitment. Today, the members of K9 Corps pay dues for the privilege of walking their dogs off-leash on the 35-acre cemetery grounds, and now contribute 20% of the Congressional Cemetery’s operating income.