I asked myself this question while enjoying the superb weather last Saturday at Central Dog Park, a privately owned park situated directly behind the Central Christian Church on the westernmost edge (literally the border) of Highland Park.
Factor #1: Location
The neighborhood is an interesting mix. On one side of the church, just west of the Tollway and south of Mockingbird, are modest single family homes from the 40s and 50s. I actually grew up in one of these homes! On the other side of the church, there are a number of newer multifamily developments as well as single-family homes. Being situated very close to Lemmon Avenue means the socio-economic makeup of the community is not really all that different from Oak Cliff. The park collects as many residents from nearby Oak Lawn as it does from the Park Cities. Its conveniently located for both neighborhoods.
Factor #2: Dogs! (and humans!)
This can really be attributed to Factor #1. The better the location, the more it will get used. When I arrived at about 12:30 pm, there were two other owners, each with one dog a piece. Roughly an hour later, I counted 10-12 different owners. Some with kids. Some with two dogs. All different ages. All different breeds. All friendly.
Factor #3: Size
As we’ve mentioned before on this blog and perhaps in other forums, the city of Dallas has tried to implement a standard regulation size of roughly 5 acres for public dog parks. Anyone who has been to a dog park in Dallas knows that not one of them actually is 5 acres…at least not one of them that I’ve ever been to within the 635 loop. So what is the ideal size for a dog park? That is something we at FIDO have been studying, but as one of our members puts it, the park simply needs to be a more spacious alternative to our own backyards.
If the park is too large, it’s easier for people to ignore each other, which in turn prohibits community development and exacerbates issues of safety amongst the dogs. For example, its much harder to police a dog squabble in a large park if the owner is on one side and their dog is on the other.
Central Dog Park, by my estimates, was about the same size as the dog park at White Rock Lake – somewhere between 1/2 and 3/4 of an acre. It was plenty of space for the dogs to run around, but cozy enough to encourage interaction between the humans.
Factor #4: Amenities
The first thing I noticed walking up to the park was the cleverly placed dog washing station. Unlike some dog parks, where the washing area is inside of the park, this one is outside the gates allowing visitors to ensure their dog stays clean. Additionally, it has leashes already integrated into the platform to allow users to stabilize their dogs easily.
Ample seating is provided in the form of a variety of different chairs and benches that all seem to have been donated by the community. All the chairs are clustered around an elegant stone fire pit – surely a nice amenity in the colder winter months.
The space also provides a large community board filled with pictures of community dog owners, postings about lost and found dogs and information about park events. If that wasn’t enough, they also have a swing set – perfect for your (inner) child.
Parking is shared with the church, so while it might be a little tight during Sunday service hours, there was plenty of space available when we visited. A number of visitors had walked over from their homes nearby.
Factor #5: TLC
Without community support, none of the above factors would exist. The park is clearly loved and it shows. Its very well maintained and its mere existence goes a long way in showing whats possible if a community gets together and the right owners donate some land. It truly is a model for what a neighborhood dog park should be. Every community should have a space like this. It just makes sense!
Dog owners in Oak Cliff deserve a space of this quality and we at FIDO aim to make this a reality. With your help and support, we can and we will make it a reality. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in donating your time, energy or money to our cause.
Don’t forget, you can help make an immediate impact by walking with us and Green Pet in the Go Oak Cliff Mardi Gras Parade. Sign up to walk with us and the rest of the Krewe de Chew. Help us spread the word!