Evolving Dog-Park Design Standards

The bullpens have also gone through an evolution in recent years. The first ones just entered directly onto the turf of the dog park. While very functional, there was an excessive amount of wear right at the entry. This concentrated use at the gate made it virtually impossible for maintenance staffs to keep the turf in good condition. More recent designs have included an additional surfaced area around the entry, constructed of some type of hard or soft material. This additional area helps to disperse some of the concentrated use right at the entry/exit, and has helped considerably in dispersement of use at the entry/exit area.

Second-generation parks still used either non-irrigated natural turf or irrigated bluegrass. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages.

The non-irrigated turf is much less expensive to install and maintain, but does not stand up well to high concentrations of use and seems to quickly turn into bare dirt soon after the opening of the dog park.

The bluegrass is more expensive to install and maintain but will hold up better under high use. However, even though the bluegrass will stand up to some heavy use, areas of high concentrated use day after day will also destroy blue grass turf.

We noticed the turf in the Denver metro-area dog parks never has an opportunity to recover. Once the turf is stressed, it almost never has the opportunity to re-establish.

Third-Generation Design?

Because of our observations, we centered the discussions on how to keep the turf in the best possible shape. We knew the parks we observed were very well maintained, but the turf was just “loved to death.”

One of the first decisions was that un-irrigated turf was not going to be an acceptable solution for the facilities. Both parks were to be located in very developed park/sports complexes, and the expectation was that the dog parks would fit into the surrounding parks. The question then became how to keep the irrigated turf in an acceptable condition and consistent with the rest of the park.

After much discussion and debate as a design group, we came to the conclusion that these areas would receive the same type of use/abuse as the sports fields, and maintenance decisions were based on this conclusion. The maintenance staff needed to treat these fields as if they were overused sports fields and maintenance of the dog park needed to include mowing, fertilizing, aerating and over-seeding.

As design discussion progressed, our maintenance staff voiced its concerns about the ability of the irrigated turf to recover from overuse. No matter what you do, or how well you address the wear of the turf through over-seeding and fertilization, if use is not removed and the grass does not have an opportunity to grow, it will never recover. Based on this concern, the design discussion moved to figuring out how we could effectively remove use from the worn areas, yet still allow use of the park.

The solution to this diverging thought was based on a prevailing agricultural concept in our area — pasture rotation, where one area is rested while another is opened for active use.

We decided to divide the dog parks roughly in half, with each side being slightly over an acre in size, and rotate use of the areas throughout the year.

Personally, I would consider this the next generation in dog-park design. We have tried this concept on two of our dog parks and are extremely pleased with the results.

The rotation schedule is based on use, not the calendar, and the maintenance staff makes the decision as to when to rotate to the other side. This decision is based on time of year, natural moisture, compaction, use, etc. Currently, we are rotating approximately every third month, but that is subject to change, based upon conditions.

As mentioned, the maintenance practices used in the dog parks are the same as we use on our irrigated turf sports fields. The maintenance includes fertilization, aeration, mowing (twice weekly), over-seeding (using both slicing and broadcast methods) and trimming. The bluegrass seed mix that we use is a Rocky Mountain Fairway mix developed specially as a sports turf mix for our area.

Other Design Considerations

Dog parks can be designed and constructed for relatively low costs, i.e., metal T-posts with wire, a gate, and non-irrigated turf, to relatively high costs, i.e., irrigated turf, wooden fences, shelters, etc.

However, I would encourage you to base your decisions on how the overall appearance of the park fits into the surrounding park or area. And, you may want to consider adding a designated small-dog area.

The most frequently asked questions at our dog parks (most questions are phrased to our staff as “my dog wants”) are the following:

· When are we going to have shade?

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