The county joins ranks with other communities and dedicates its first dog park in Tarpon Springs.
By ED QUIOCO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 5, 2002
TARPON SPRINGS -- When it comes to amenities, this park packs a lot of bark for the buck.
Pinellas County officially dedicates the first county playground built for pooches at 10 a.m. today at A.L. Anderson Park, 39699 U.S. 19 N.
The park's Paw Playground has a fenced-in 11/2-acre play area where dogs can run unleashed. The playground also comes with doggie showers, a canine water fountain and plastic bags so dog owners can clean up after their pets.
It even has separate areas for big and small dogs.
"It's more for the big dogs not to step on the little dogs," said Elizabeth Warren, the county's parks director.
Other pup playgrounds, also called bark parks, will follow in county parks, Warren said. The county plans to open similar areas in Fort De Soto Park and Walsingham Park later this year. Officials are looking into other parks as well.
The reason for the dog parks is simple, Warren said. Residents want them.
"We've had a lot of citizens request that we add this feature to our parks," she said.
For example, even though the playground's official opening will be today, the county quietly opened the play area more than a week ago because of the demand. Since then, the county has received compliments from about 100 people, Warren said.
"We weren't quite finished, but the dogs and the citizens were barking" to use the play area, Warren said. "They wanted to get in so we let them in."
The county isn't the only municipality building bark parks. Largo recently approved a dog park. Safety Harbor, Indian Rocks Beach and St. Petersburg already have parks. Clearwater and Dunedin are making plans for such parks.
Not only is there a demand for dog parks, but it's relatively affordable to create one. Bark parks can cost about $15,000. That includes fencing, benches, a statue or two to dress up the area and other amenities.
Not bad, Warren said, considering that to install an average playground in a county park can cost up to $100,000.
Dog play areas also are a wonderful place for dog owners to socialize, share information about their pets and play with other dogs, Warren said.
"So often in our lives we are so busy," he said. "We don't reach out to people. We are on the computer or on our cell phone. It's just a nice place to talk to people."
The festivities today will include a ribbon cutting with a twist: the ribbons will have doggie treats. There also will be light refreshments and maybe some county dignitaries will be there.
But there won't be any doubt as to who are the guests of honor.
"Really," Warren said, "the dogs steal the show."