Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Give Us Your Leashed Canine Masses Yearning to Run Free; Off-Leash Dog Parks Are in Demand, and the Supply Is Catching Up

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Give Us Your Leashed Canine Masses Yearning to Run Free; Off-Leash Dog Parks Are in Demand, and the Supply Is Catching Up

Article excerpt

Byline: DEIRDRE CONNER

Two new off-leash dog parks are in the works, the product of rising demand from Northeast Florida pet owners.

Saturday will be the grand opening of the new Atlantic Beach Dog Park. And a proposal for a dog park at Ed Austin Memorial Park in Arlington is moving forward.

The parks are almost too popular for their own good. Paws Park in Jacksonville Beach gets so much traffic that erosion will force it to close indefinitely on Monday for safety repairs. It is likely to reopen in a few weeks.

Paws Park was experimental when it opened as a public-private partnership. Today, all of the recently opened parks have been created because of citizen initiatives, including the Atlantic Beach Park and Confederate Park dog park in Springfield, which opened in 2009. Most are funded by a combination of private and government funds.

Darlene Perrigue, an East Arlington resident, is spearheading the effort to get a dog park added to Ed Austin Memorial Park. She contacted City Councilman Bill Bishop last year about the idea. Today, a measure to create the off-leash dog area is set to be approved by the City Council at its next meeting.

"It's a really low-cost option," Perrigue said. Before, she was driving to Ponte Vedra Beach to a St. Johns County park.

Socializing and exercising dogs off-leash is growing in popularity around the nation, said Mark Hendry, president of Friends of Paws Park. He said it draws visitors from all over the region.

"The demand is just going through the roof for dog parks," he said.

Off-leash dog parks exist in various formats throughout the region. Some are free, others require memberships. Some are on the grounds of municipal parks, and others are private.

For Keith Sload and his puppy, Murphy, the parks are fun for both canine and human. Sload enjoys watching Murphy play with the other dogs, and Murphy likes it all - the running, the playing, the impromptu mud baths. …

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