Off-Leash Dog Park Review – Naples Florida, USA
It was 10:30 a.m. on a hot and sunny May morning in Naples Florida when we made our way to 99 Riverside to see for ourselves the much talked about “new” Off-Leash Dog Park .
Nicknamed “Central Bark” this facility is open, like the city’s other parks, from dawn to dusk seven days a week.
The irony here is that we are not off-leash-dog park lovers. We often find them to be less than attractive areas for the humans, in less than pleasing areas of a city. They are always far too rough and dangerous for toy breeds with little space allocated to the small ones who need space to run and burn off steam just as much as their larger cousins. The parks we have seen have always come across as make-shift places where the cheapest possible materials and land no one else wanted, where used. No thought is ever given to esthetics. The parks are frequently old and run down. As such we tend to avoid them.
This cannot be said about the Naples Dog Park .
This dog park has raised the bar in a way that no other dog park we have seen has. It’s beautiful. You read me right – beautiful. Our collective jaws dropped when we first glimpsed the front entrance from the large parking lot. It is spacious, fully landscaped with palm trees and flowers, designed with functionally and good taste. It has both canines and humans in mind and is a safe haven from the Florida heat.
The park has an off-leash area for larger dogs, called Bailey Tobin’s Big Dog Run, and an off-leash area for smaller dogs (under 15 pounds), called Dolce Sherman’s Small Dog Playground. As we understand it, both playgrounds were named for the dogs of people who made the most significant financial contributions to the park’s construction. These off-leash areas are connected in the centre by a shaded structure that comes complete with picnic tables and benches (for owners to relax in the shade) and drinking fountains.
“The Naples Dog Park includes two separate off-the-leash areas. The South section, composed of approximately 1 acre of fenced area will be for large dogs while the North section composed of .35 acres will be dedicated to small dogs. Located centrally in the park is a shade structure that includes benches, drinking fountains for man and beast as well as a picnic area. There are approximately 43 parking spaces to the North, a sidewalk connection to the greenway and place for public art. The fencing is adorned with lush landscaping. The off-the-leash areas are a combination of dog friendly mulch and a nice grassy circumference for running.” -Matthew Kragh
We must tip our hats off to Mr. Kragh (the Naples-based architect who designed the park) whose name we found on a plaque embedded in a stone at the park’s entrance. Not only is the design far superior to any dog park we have seen and features all the things you would expect, such as, poop bag dispensers, garbage bins for waste disposal, double gate system on all four entrances (two for each off-leash area), and so on. It also has features that are – in our experience – entirely unique. These include:
- Drinking fountains (with drainage holes) for both humans and canines, including one low to the ground with an on-ramp for the toy breeds,
- Wash stations complete with nozzle (on shower setting) hose
- Large play areas with both mulch and grass – no sad looking patch of dirt!
- Shaded areas with hammocks
- Humoristic and decorative fire hydrants
- “In Memory Of” plaque in the central covered section (no names are featured – park being so new) to commemorate the loss of one of the park’s “own”.
- A place to hang leashes for the dogs let loose in the off-leash sections
Ready for more? Future plans include more shaded areas within the off-leash areas with additional mature trees and pergolas and a large statue at the entrance. A dog water “playground” is also a possible addition being considered. We are not surprised, a walk down 5th street or 3rd street in Old Naples will show you the love the local residents have for fountains and statuaries. It’s nice to see this love of beautiful things extended to the dog park.
These plans give us a reason to return on our next visit!
Currently, maintenance of the park is done by a group of volunteers. On the day we visited, a tree planting ceremony had just occurred. The grounds were being tidied up by a nice gentleman in a gardener’s sunhat who was raking the mulch back into place in the large dog area. The place was spotless without signs of garbage or of the event itself still visible. Obviously, the self-policing policy is working for this park, so far.
“How was the construction of this dog park accomplished?” you ask. A good question, considering the construction for the park cost $250,000. This was fully met through private donors. The fund-raising even added an extra $15,000 in the coffers, which we were told was put towards the maintenance for the first year.
Originally, it was anticipated that a yearly membership would be required. Yet, on the day of our visit we were told this is now no longer deemed necessary. The park does, however, require a registration of local pets intending to attend on a regular basis complete with dog tag. This is designed to ensure that all dogs that visit the Dog Park have all the required vaccinations. We asked about visitors like ourselves only stopping in for a week or two. The two ladies we met at the park informed us that no one was going to require my registration for a one day visit, but it would be needed if I planned on coming every day for the duration of our stay.
More than a place for dogs and owners alike to socialize, the park is also doing its part for charity. The Collier County Domestic Animal Services bring a dog (or two) in need of adoption to the park three times a week for a walk and romp. It’s good for the dogs and gives them a chance to socialize with both humans and other canines. Of course, they also hope that someone will fall in love with one of the dogs (wearing a yellow Adopt Me t-shirt) and will want to adopt it. At the very least, they hope to encourage people to converse with the shelter volunteers and help spread the word about the organization.
There are three other dog parks in the area: Rover Run at Veterans Community Park in North Naples, Canine Cove at Mackle Park on Marco Island and the Estero Community Center Dog Park . Maybe next time we will stop in and see what they have to offer…but we must say – the bar has been set high. Very high indeed!
Do you know an extraordinary dog park? Let us know![fpphotos id=341629672576452]