Designing Dog Parks

Unfortunately, there’s no getting around one point: dogs are hard on natural grass, and the smaller the park, the more heavily used its surface will be. In a compact area, the area may become skinned and bare because of dog and foot traffic (and dog urine). You may want to consult a soils engineer about periodic testing for possible contamination from heavy dog use. Occasionally, soil remediation may be necessary for some facilities.

Artificial turf must also be kept clean, and all manufacturers’ recommendations regarding maintenance and repair must be followed. Before attempting any procedures on such turf, consult the installer for advice, as mistakes may be expensive (if not impossible) to fix.

Community Benefit

Dog parks can be a touchy subject–for every person who supports them, there is someone who is opposed to the idea. However, over time, dog parks have gone from an esoteric concept to a desirable community amenity, particularly in urban areas where opportunities for exercising dogs may be limited.

Despite the expense of installation, fenced dog parks can be a great selling point–as long as they are well-designed, well-built, well-located, well-maintained and governed by a group of individuals who take their stewardship seriously. Keep them in good repair, enforce the rules, work with committed volunteers, and you’ll see a return on your investment.

Note: The American Sports Builders Association (ASBA) is a non-profit association helping designers, builders, owners, operators and users understand quality sports facility construction. The ASBA sponsors informative meetings and publishes newsletters, books and technical construction guidelines for athletic facilities, including sports fields. Available at no charge is a listing of all publications offered by the Association, as well as the ASBA’s Membership Directory. Info: 866-501-ASBA (2722) or

Mary Helen Sprecher has been a technical writer for more than 20 years with the American Sports Builders Association. She has written on various topics relating to sports-facility design, construction and supply, as well as sports medicine, education, health and industrial issues. She is an avid racquetball and squash player, and a full-time newspaper reporter in Baltimore, Md.

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