Sunday, September 14, 2003

Park makes room for dogs

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Dogs romp at Mount Airy Forest, the first Cincinnati-area park to set aside an area for them.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
| ZOOM |
SYMMES TWP. - Part of an 18-acre expansion at the township's most heavily used park is going to the dogs, as this Hamilton County community joins the emerging trend in Greater Cincinnati of putting land aside for Rover.

Nearly 2 acres will be fenced in at Symmes Park on Lebanon Road to allow room for dogs, Trustee Kathy Wagner said.

An animal lover, she decided residents needed a place to let the dogs out after mentioning a dog attack on a child to her veterinarian, Dr. Paul LeCompte.

He had helped open the Schappacher Park dog run three years ago in neighboring Deerfield Township.

"I said 'These dogs are always on a leash. These dogs are always under control,' " Wagner recalled, asking LeCompte why the attack happened.

"He said, 'That's the problem. You've got to let the dogs out. You've got to let them run. You've got to let them blow off steam.' "

Symmes joins a growing number of communities that have recently announced plans for public off-leash parks. With more than a third of American households owning at least one dog, it's a trend picking up steam.

The Cincinnati Park Board is planning its second dog area in a new park being developed near Lunken Playfield, said Steve Schuckman, superintendent of planning and design.

The area's first dog park opened in Cincinnati's Mount Airy Forest in 1999 at the urging of owners who objected to leash laws being enforced in the parks, Schuckman said.

The Mount Airy park has proven to be not only a social mecca for canines, but a place for their owners to make new friends, he said.

"The parking lot is always full," he said. "People are there in all kinds of weather, day and night."

Other canine playgrounds are on the drawing board in Butler County's West Chester Township and Anderson Township in Hamilton County, where the park district wants to build the area's largest, on four acres.

Fort Thomas officials in Northern Kentucky are discussing the possibility of a dog park, and Boone County Parks Director Ken Hund said he sees one in that county's future.

"Most people don't have a big yard, and it's a place where an owner can go, and throw a ball and let the dog run after the ball without a leash attached, and have it play with a couple other dogs all running after the same ball," said Susan Woodcock, the owner of four dogs and co-owner of Puppy Camp dog day care center.

"There's nothing like getting to throw a Frisbee and watching your dog run. Where else can you do that?"

Symmes officials said they hope to have their dog park opened sometime next summer along with the additional natural trails planned for the expansion.

The township recently bought the 18 acres at the southeastern end of the park from the Loveland School Board for about $470,000 with a stipulation that the land would be used for educational purposes, township Administrator Gerald Beckman said.


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