GIMME SHELTER- Doggy playground: Build one in your neighborhood!

Brian Daly
Assistant Director, Charlottesville Parks and Recreation


Q: We'd like to have a dog park in our neighborhood.  How do we go about it and what's required?

A: First, search city records or call Neighborhood Development services to find out if there's public land in your neighborhood that might be suitable for a dog park. 

Currently, there's a dog park at Azalea park. In addition, dogs are allowed off leash Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday on the trails at Riverview Park in the Woolen Mills neighborhood. 

The entire process from planning to construction to obtaining the permits for a dog park will take a minimum of six months. Currently, the Parks and Recreation department is preparing a master plan for Rives Park. We're in the first stages of planning and are allowing community members the opportunity to come in and provide input on how the park will be used in the future. The first general community meeting was held October 24, and a follow-up meeting is scheduled for early December.

Assuming there's public land available in your neighborhood, certain standards pertain to building a dog park. For instance, there should be a minimum of a quarter acre; fencing should be chain link, heavy-gauge, and a minimum of five feet high; and fence posts should be in concrete to secure them solidly to the ground. The surface should be turf or standard seeded grass, not wood mulch. While it's difficult to maintain– due to the rough-and-tumble wear and tear caused by spunky canines– grass is still your best option. Dog urine soaks right through the soil in grass and nature works its magic, but with mulch the urine stays in the wood, creating bacteria growth and buildup that's not safe for you or your dogs. 

The entrance to the dog park is crucial in ensuring that both the dogs and the neighborhood encompassing the park are safe. That's why we require a foyer area be built so that dogs cannot escape from the park. Basically, it's a small enclosed area where dogs are led before they're unleashed and released into the park. This two-gate system ensures that dogs do not escape from the park. A park can have two entrances, depending on how big the park is, but each entrance should have a foyer. 

After these basic requirements are met, Parks and Rec would need to see what kind of amenities your neighborhood would want, such as on-going maintenance and "policing" of the park.

Just by taking these few simple steps and collaborating with your neighbors and the Parks and Recreation department, you can be on your way to creating your very own doggy playground complete with the amenities of your choice in no time. 


1 comment

There are an alarming number of neighborhood dogparks being closed because of barking
dogs in close proximity to neighboring homes.

There is going to be a story about this growing problem in the nation parks and rec assoc magazine very soon.

Please consider this potential problem when
you are designing the park. Poorly designed parks with inadequate fencing can not suddenly add
card technology at the entrance to enforce the rules after the park is already completed.

PS - Small dogs need 1/4 to 1/5 of the total space.

Bill Zardus