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Placemaking Goes to the Dogs

It appears the new trend is letting things go to the dogs.   Dog parks are popping up all over and they are more than a just a place to walk a dog.   They are also a place to make new friends, socialize, meet neighbors and spruce up a neighborhood.

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The Citizens for Off-Leash Areas (COLA) points out some of the benefits of dog parks:

- Discourages delinquent and criminal activity

- Encourages people to exercise and stimulate social interaction with other people

- Accommodates senior citizens and the disabled, who cannot always walk their dogs on leash

- Builds a community of people committed to parks, community involvement and the environment

Ali Rutzel, the head of COLA remarks that “People say, ‘I never knew my neighbors until I went to the dog park.’ You meet all these wonderful people and the only thing that you have in common is that you have a dog and that you love dogs – you wouldn’t meet these people anywhere else.”

When Johanna Nelson left Sweden for a new life in Tigard, Oregon, she struggled to feel at home.  Then she discovered Potso Dog Park.  The local park, protected by The Trust for Public Land, was the perfect place to play fetch and make friends—for Johanna as much as for her pup, Scottie. “It’s easy to make friends at Potso,” says Johanna. “It feels like family.”

Photo credit: Lincoln Barbour.

Photo credit: Lincoln Barbour.

And Dr. Lynette Hart, director of UC Davis’ Center for Animals in Society believes dog parks bring people together. “Dogs facilitate friendly interactions among people, as they so actively solicit play and offer greetings. Establishing a dog park creates a community center of activity where friends and neighbors gather to relax.”

Interviewed by Illinois REALTOR®, Peter Kageyama, author and co-founder of the Creative Cities Summit, said “Go to your local dog park and you will see one of the most social and egalitarian places in your entire community.”  Kageyama goes on to say that dog parks are an example of a low-cost initiative that has an outsized impact.  Small initiatives, like dog parks, are the equivalent of “love notes to the community.”

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Dog parks are also affecting local real estate markets.  The Butler County Association of REALTORS® applied for an NAR Placemaking Micro-grant for a dog park.  In the application they pointed out an article in RealtyTimes, Dog Parks Emerging “Must Have” for Pet Loving Home Buyers, written by Mark Nash, a real estate broker.

“Savvy communities are recognizing the need and establishing designated dog parks as a home buyer perk that works. Many dog owners I have worked with have nixed a property that isn’t near a dog park. As a real estate broker, dog parks as a community amenity are an emerging trend, one that can increase property values; lower market times when selling a property and be a deciding factor in a home purchase decision. Plus, if a town is looking to establish neighborhood associations, dogs are a great conduit to get people banding together.”

Some newly built dogs parks are transforming unused and underutilized spaces into eye-catching, hip gathering spots in urban communities.    Chicago has some great examples.

Mary Bartelme Park in the West Loop neighborhood has a 1.4 acre dog park built on the site of an old infirmary. It includes an open lawn area, viewing hill and enclosed seating area.

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Puptown is a three-acre acre, volunteer-run dog park in the up and coming Uptown community.  It cultivates a true community spirit and hosts the Howl-O-Ween Parade and Party as a fundraising event, where pooches and humans alike dress up.

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Logan Square Dog Park used to be a dumping ground and less-than-stellar space, but community donations and a can-do spirit have turned it into the city’s newest dog park whose theme is “Helping to build a better community, one walk at a time.”

blogAnd in New Orleans, REALTOR® Lara Schultz helped transform a weedy, trash-strewn vacant lot into a dog park featuring a water pad with a fire hydrant as its centerpiece, a recycled toilet fountain that the dogs can drink from and funny bone-shaped benches donated by local wood artist, John Rowland.

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So is it time to build a dog park in your neighborhood?

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