The Legacy of the Dog Park
“Oh no, it isn’t at all,” Sam said. “It’s mine! I’m going to give it to you to use for a dog park for as long as I own it.”
I got an estimate for fencing. It would take 30 people each paying $135 to join to install the fence. I didn’t advertise but before long we had fifty members! This field in our neighborhood, large, flat, half-shady, was long-neglected, a collection place for Styrofoam cups and drink cans. After bush-hogging, it was stubble and thorny vines. Under the vines, we discovered a rusty propane tank that required Hazmat removal. Under the surface of the stubble were several rusted pieces of machinery, abandoned over the years. Eventually, we cleared the field. We covered it with free bark chips, grass seed, and loose pieces of sod; soon, we had a grassy lawn. For many years now, it’s been a lovely green park, fenced, flowers outside the fence, barrels of balls and toys, and agility equipment. It was immaculate, an asset to the neighborhood. People coming in to the neighborhood slowed down and enjoyed it.
I published a monthly newsletter to all the members of the dog park. A constant stream of new members paid the $135 to join, and we each paid $25 a year for dues. This was enough to cover the maintenance which involved mowing and lawn care, occasional tree or debris removal following a storm, new toys annually, and optional training programs.
Two years ago, to the dismay of our members, the property sold to the Country Club. They kept it operational until they decided what to do with it. The dog park continued to operate, but was now for Country Club members only. They can’t, by law, offer their amenities to nonmembers. This broke my heart, since I’d built this as a community park, not a private club. But, I was no longer in charge.
We’ve continued to use the facility; Buddy visits the park to play ball every day. He’s often the only dog there, as there are fewer users now, and most are seasonal. Sunday was the day we’ve all been dreading. The fence was removed and rolled up. Colored flags are stuck in the plush grass, where this week it becomes a muddy construction site.
We had a good run, made a lot of community friends we otherwise would not have known, and had a lot of fun. It’s sad to say goodbye; I know it will be missed. Like Joni Mitchell’s old song, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”