February 1, 2013 11:11:04 AM
Carmen K. Sisson - firstname.lastname@example.org
Wanted: City dog seeks spacious field to chase flying discs and balls and meet new friends. Location must be safe, clean and human-friendly. Oh, and free. Free is good.
It was the bark heard around Columbus, and Roger Short, executive director of Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority, took the request seriously. People were tired of driving their dogs to Starkville and Tupelo to play. They wanted a dog park here, and as a fellow dog lover, Short was equally enthused with the idea.
In six weeks, that dream should become a reality as a new amenity joins the city's roster: Bark Park.
The site, located on a hill at the rear of Propst Park, has slowly taken shape this week, with workers installing park benches for the humans and a few perks for their pets -- six genuine, bright red fire hydrants and two K9 Guzzlers, special water fountains for dogs.
Two fenced play areas will keep large and small dogs separate, with bigger breeds enjoying a 36,000-square-foot field and smaller breeds having 15,000 square feet in which to romp. A staging area at the entrance of the park will allow owners to safely unleash their dogs and select the field of their choice.
The dog park will be free and open to the public seven days a week, from dusk to dawn, but there is a substantial list of rules and regulations designed to keep dogs, owners and other visitors safe. Cats are on their own -- only dogs are allowed.
All breeds are welcome as long as they are not aggressive to dogs or people. They must be disease-free and vaccinated against rabies and DHLPP (distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus and parainfluenza), and collars must be worn with vaccination tags visible. Prong, choke and chain collars are not allowed.
Females should be kept at home while in heat, and male dogs should be closely supervised if they are not neutered, to prevent fighting. Dog owners must stay within sight of their pets at all times and remove them at the first sign of aggression. All bites must be reported to Animal Control and owners are liable for any injuries or property damage.
Puppies less than four-months-old will not be allowed, and there is a three-dog per person limit. Spectators and children under the age of 12 must remain outside the fence.
In addition to the fire hydrants and drinking stations, dogs will be able to enjoy canine agility equipment, including jumping hoops and hurdles. Waste receptacles with disposal bags will be provided.
Though there are only a few trees at the location now, Short said he is planting crape myrtles and Royal Empress trees, fast-growing shade trees that are non-toxic and drought-resistant.
The park, approved by the CLRA board Jan. 7, was one of Short's primary goals for 2013. When he asked for feedback on the CLRA Facebook page, the response was overwhelmingly positive. He plans to be one of the park's first visitors, bringing his Yorkipoo, Dierks, and his Shitzapoo, Bentley, to play.
"We're excited about it," Short said. "It's just another quality of life issue we feel we can offer."
Weather permitting, Bark Park is expected to open in early March or sooner.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.