A Publication of WTVP

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Read on about the future Peoria Dog Park!

What exactly is a dog park? A dog park is a fenced area where dogs can run, play and romp with other dogs without the constraint of leashes. Dogs are naturally social, playful animals and having an open space where they can be free is critical to their well-being. In 2007, there were 26,000 registered dogs in Peoria County. Despite this high population, the nearest dog park is just outside the town of Morton.

Dog parks began popping up around the country in the late 1980s and early 1990s after many communities started passing leash laws and dogs and their owners were left without a place to play freely. Count on California to be first—in 1985, citizens in the community of Berkeley petitioned the local government to create the first legal dog park. There is no current statistic on the number of official dog parks in the U.S., but simply google “dog park” and you’ll find a dozen sites with state-by-state listings of dog parks.

Benefits of a Dog Park

I recently moved back to Peoria from Monterrey, Mexico. While living abroad, my husband and I added Alfie, a golden retriever, to our family. As first-time dog owners, we were eager to dive into the dog community. Once Alfie was old enough and had the proper vaccinations, we took him to the one and only dog park in our community. This park was nothing like the dog park over in Morton, or the proposed park here in Peoria. It was a small, fenced area about the size of a backyard, without a double gate to prevent dogs from escaping when someone entered or exited. It had no shade from the sun, became extremely muddy after it rained and the garbage cans were not emptied on a regular basis. Despite these obvious flaws, we loved it.

Create a Sense of Community

The dog park was a place where we met other people and developed friendships. Cities across the United States have discovered that this is one of the outstanding benefits of a dog park. More than just a place for canines, it becomes a place where people can connect, meet and create a sense of community. And you don’t need to have a dog to participate! I often had dog-less friends join me at the park to watch the dogs play. Even elderly citizens who are unable to care for an animal or have lost a pet can sit on a bench at the dog park and enjoy the familiar sights, sounds (and smells) of man’s best friend at play.

Promote Responsible Dog Ownership

Dog parks promote responsible dog ownership. By creating a designated space for dogs to roam, they are less likely to encroach on soccer fields, jogging paths and playgrounds. A dog park also helps dog owners respect leash laws and waste pick-up guidelines. There is no reason to let your dog roam unleashed when he has a designated park to enjoy, or to let that pile of poop sit around when there are pick-up stations available.

Safe Place for Exercise and Socialization

Dog parks allow dogs to exercise and socialize safely. Dogs are naturally social animals that need lots of exercise. It would take hours upon hours of walking on-leash to rival the energy a dog can expend at the park. In addition, the more exposure dogs have to other dogs and humans, the less likely they are to react aggressively in unfamiliar situations. One point to keep in mind is that simply because dogs are allowed to be off-leash does not mean that their owners are not responsible for their behavior. There are rules to be followed at the dog park, and positive peer pressure from other park users will help encourage good dog stewardship.

Make Good Neighbors

Dog parks enhance the community by promoting public health and safety. A well exercised, socialized dog is less likely to bark excessively, create a nuisance or destroy property. The added presence of people and their dogs at the park can also help deter crime. A dog park gives new meaning to the idea that “good fences make good neighbors” when that fence encompasses a dog park.

The Peoria Dog Park

After several local residents independently contacted the Peoria Park District in early 2007 asking for a dog park, a committee of interested individuals was formed to further the discussion. In mid-2007, the committee met with the Park District Board of Trustees to propose park rules, layout and fundraising responsibilities. The committee agreed to raise $30,000, to be matched with an additional $30,000 by the Park District, which has also set aside five acres of land in Lower Bradley Park in West Peoria. The total $60,000 will fund fencing, drainage, watering stations, benches and poop bag dispensers. The future site boasts ample parking and plenty of shade trees. The Park plans include double-gated entrances to prevent any escapees, as well as separate areas for large and small dogs.

On April 19th the committee held a fundraising event at the site of the future park called “Sit & Play for the Peoria Dog Park.” Over 250 people and 100 dogs enjoyed an afternoon that included a demonstration by the Peoria Police Department’s K-9 Unit, paw print art, pet portraits and a costume contest. A total of $2,000 was raised, bringing the committee closer to their goal of starting construction of the Park by the end of the summer.

Anyone who would like to support the Peoria Dog Park can make a tax-deductible donation to the Peoria Park District Foundation with a memo of “dog park.” For a $50 donation you will receive a personalized commemorative brick, which will be on display at the Park and is a great way to remember a lost pet, celebrate your current companion, or simply show your support for this great addition to the Peoria community. For more information, please email [email protected], or visit the Peoria Park District website at

Good reader! TPW