Hondo Heaven

The City of Hillsboro, Ore., is a rapidly growing and diverse community of 85,000, just west of Portland, where agriculture meets high tech and everything in between. When the parks and recreation department began developing plans for its first off-leash dog park, the organization was committed to making it more than just lumpy grass inside a fence. With a combination of community input, strong partnerships and creative planning, HondoDogPark opened in September 2007 to hoards of wagging tails and howls of support.

The department is proud to provide residents with more than 800 acres of park land, an array of recreational facilities and a multitude of sports, educational and cultural programs. All of the nearly 30 parks and specialty areas the department offers have been creatively designed and are maintained to high standards. With residents accustomed to taking pride in their parks and recreational opportunities, building anything less than a premier dog park was out of the question.

Getting Started

The initial idea for a dog park was born in 2004 from community requests for an off-leash park for exercising and socializing dogs. In 2005, the community-led Hillsboro Vision 2020 process identified and supported the need to “create fenced off-leash dog area(s) to promote responsible pet ownership, public health and safety, and a community gathering place.” While Oregon offers boundless opportunities for outdoor recreation, the growth and development of the Hillsboro community has resulted in smaller backyards for dogs to play in day-to-day. While Portland and other communities in the northwest Oregon area offer some dog parks, the nearest to Hillsboro is about 20 minutes away.

In 2005, a 3.75-acre lot was chosen for Hillsboro’s first dog park. The location is conveniently located across the street from the Hillsboro Parks & Recreation headquarters building and the Gordon Faber Recreation Complex/Hillsboro Stadium, which is also operated by the department.

Design Elements

After seeking input from the community–including a group of citizen dog enthusiasts and neighboring jurisdictions with dog parks–the design and rules for the park were finalized. The design was created by Hillsboro Parks & Recreation Project Manager Laurie DeVos. Not only did this in-house design process save the city a great deal of money on consultant design fees, but it also provided unique flexibility to create the best park possible for the community.

As a result, Hondo Dog Park features three unique fenced-in dog areas, including a large, main, mixed-size dog play area, a small/timid dog area and a special winter-use area that can be enjoyed year-round. The design of the park is especially dog-friendly with double-gated entrances, open grassy areas, trees for shade, water stations, etched garbage cans with images of dogs and even two special doggie-decorated, non-functioning fire hydrants donated to the park by the City of Hillsboro water department. All three areas have wheelchair-accessible gravel paths and park benches for dog owners to relax on while Fido plays.

Honorable Mention

The park’s name holds special significance with dog lovers and the Hillsboro community. Upon a request from the Hillsboro Dog Association during the planning phase, the park was named in honor of Hillsboro Police K-9 German shepherd “Hondo,” which lost his life in the line of duty in 1997. A bronze plaque honoring Hondo was created and sits atop a beautiful basalt column at the entrance to the park. Hondo’s former handler, Police Sergeant Bruce Kelly, who now leads Hillsboro Police’s K-9 unit, provided the following poem that is featured on the plaque:

The Working Dog

My eyes are your eyes,

To watch and protect yours.

My ears are your ears,

To hear and detect evil minds in the dark.

My nose is your nose,

To scent the invader of your domain.

And so you may live, my life is also yours.

~ Author Unknown

The two fire hydrants are a particularly fun addition to the park, and each has a unique theme created and painted by local volunteers. A Hillsboro Police K-9 officer and a fellow dog lover painted one of the hydrants as a special patriotic tribute to Hondo and all service dogs. The Hondo tribute hydrant is in the large mixed-dog area, and is protected from dogs by a pedestal and decorative fence. The Hillsboro Dog Association painted the other hydrant, which is located in the small/timid dog area with a whimsical cartoon dog theme.

An Association Is Born

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