The Ohlone Dog Park developed in 1979 was the first dog park in the United States. Since that time the popularity of dog parks with dog owners has exploded and there are now eighty-four in the San Francisco area, twenty-eight in New York City, thirty-three in Boston, eight in Portland, ME.
Alternately known as off-leash parks, they offer an enclosed place for dogs to play with their canine friends and frolic without the restraint of a leash. All of them include a ready supply of water, waste disposal areas, benches for the humans that own them and some have agility type equipment. In Australia many have water taps and shade trees while in New South Wales they have solar lighting for night time usage.
On the Cape there are currently three dog parks; the Pilgrim Bark Park in Provincetown, the Fresh Pond Dog Park In Dennis and the Falmouth Dog Park in Falmouth. For the last year the Committee for Barnstable Dog Parks (CBDP) has been working with the town of Barnstable to locate a dog park that could be visited and enjoyed by the approximately three thousand dogs that reside in Barnstable as well as dogs from other areas and dogs owned by visitors. How many visitors arrive with their pets and dream of their dog loping down the beach in abandon only to encounter every town’s restrictions against dogs on beaches in season? Only Wellfleet allows dogs on the beaches in season but only before 9 am and after 6 pm and they must be leashed.
According to Tom Lynch, Acting Town Manager of Barnstable, he and the previous town manger, “support the efforts to have a dog park in town but we rely on them (CBDP) to do the leg work, especially with neighbors.” Once the CBDP has selected and vetted a site from one of the six sites offered up as possibilities by the town, there will be review by the Conservation Committee, the Recreation Committee, the Planning Department and any other committees that are impacted or can lend knowledge before it has a public airing. As a dog owner, Lynch recognizes the value of a dog park and appreciates the thorough steps being taken by the CBDP. He is also cognizant of not so responsible pet owners who spoil the experience of others. “I get as irritated as anyone else when I am walking along and someone has not picked up after their pet.”
Almost all of these parks are funded and maintained by dedicated volunteer groups. On Sunday February 12 they held a wine tasting and silent auction at Wimpy’s in Osterville and there will be more events to follow. At this time they have about one hundred members and welcome new members who can help them achieve their goal.
For those dog owners who may use any dog park on the Cape including the Barnstable Dog Park to be built, there are some basic rules for you and your pet. They are primarily common sense for responsible dog owners and many are posted in the parks.
There are some dog owners like Debbie Robbins, a Marstons Mills resident with a small dog, who says she and her husband would not use it because they have concerns about fleas and aggressive dogs. She sees it more for people who own larger dogs that they want to exercise.
For supporters like Tom Lynch the benefits outweigh the risks. “If you’ve got a frisky puppy you want him to run around with the big dogs to tire him out.” Whichever you are, you can kept posted on the progress of the Barnstable Dog Park here and on CapeCodPets.com.