Dog owners all over New Orleans are eagerly awaiting the opening of the city’s first large-scale dog park, NOLA City Bark located in City Park. Construction on the park has already begun, but the official groundbreaking is set for May 5. City Bark promises dog owners a clean, safe, large area for dogs to run, exercise and socialize. We sat down with NOLA City Bark President Jackie Shreves to find out more about what’s to come.
Tell us about the groundbreaking.
As of May 5 at 10:30 a.m. we will have actually started the construction. There’s lots of stuff going on. The groundbreaking, what we’ve done is invited all of our donors and we’re asking the board to bring their dogs, so we can have a “When the dogs go marching in” moment. We’re inviting our councilperson and representatives to come and be a part of it. We’re having the big pooper scoopers, rather than shovels. We’ll have little bandanas for the dogs to wear and we’ll all be wearing our NOLA City Bark t-shirts. We’re having short remarks from Bob Becker, who is the CEO of City Park. We really want to acknowledge the donors and thank them for helping us get as far as we’ve gotten.
When will the actual opening be?
We hope to be open sometime in the fall.
Where are you as far as fundraising? Have you received all the donations you’ve hoped for?
We’re not finished fundraising and that’s really important. We have $175,000 more to raise. What City Park has agreed to do is help us with the expenses of the site preparation, which was so much more than we had anticipated. They have graciously done that part. But we still are putting in the fence, the walkway around the dog park, dog washes, and the hills. We want to have all the little hills for the dogs to run on, as well as a small dog, big dog area, as well as the Raising Cane’s gazebo.
What is the plan for maintenance and upkeep so the dog park will not turn into an eyesore, as other dog parks in the area have?
City Park will actually operate it. We are providing the operating funds. Really high on our list is proper maintenance. I think because it’s a permit park, that we’re going to have the people using it, be much more attentive to it. We have a staff member assigned to the park also. It’s a much bigger area and it should be much easier to maintain for that reason. People will be paying somewhere between $25 and $40, and because they’re paying and have a permit, they’re going to respect the ground and will encourage others to do the same.
When we have talked to people in other dog parks, what they have said is that the dog owners pretty much call people down themselves. If someone is abusing this, we do have the right to revoke their permit. But we hope that we won’t have to do that.
The park will be literally across the street from the new fairways at the City Park Golf Course. You’re going to have a beautiful fairway, right across from us. We will be really embraced by some nice areas.
When designing City Bark, were you influenced by other city’s dog parks?
We modeled it after a lot of different ones that we put together. We have a list of about 30 city dog parks that we actually researched. We spoke to 10-15. In most cases, almost all dog parks are owned and run by the park entity in major cities. It’s unusual to do it the way we’re doing it in terms of the fundraising. We haven’t found anybody else that does it this way. BREC in Baton Rouge. They have four dog parks there now. I was amazed at how well used they are.
Tell us about the small dogs area.
It’s going to have it’s own little dog wash. But, you can use the big dog wash if you want. It’ll have little hills in it and now we’re working on a shaded area. It’s actually rather large. I’ve seen other dog parks as big as this small dog area! It’s got it’s own separate entrance. We didn’t want people with small dogs to have to worry about picking up their dog and carrying them. Small dogs can still go in the big dog area, but big dos can’t go into the small dog area, unless it’s an older dog.
What about people who are interested in going to the dog park with their dogs? How will this permit process work?
You’ll have to go actually to the park, just like you’d go to the park to get a fishing permit, or any other permit. It’ll be a one-time permit that you’ll sign saying you’ve read the rules and regulations. Then pick up your permit, which will be a slide card at the gate. You can take up to three dogs.
Some dog parks in other cities and states require spaying/neutering? What will City Bark’s policy be?
It will be a requirement to have your dog spayed or neutered [to come to the dog park].
What else are you doing to encourage people to come to the park?
We hope to work with the hotels. We have had a lot of inquiries: “If I come to New Orleans, can I come and use the dog park?” What we’re hoping is that the hotels will buy however many permits because we want visitors to come. We know of people that come in for Barkus every year and they said when they come, they come to dog-friendly hotels, but they have nowhere to take the dogs. We had our booth at Barkus this year and I cannot tell you how many out-of-town people bought t-shirts, signed up on our Web site and said they can’t wait to come back. That was something I had not expected. That took me by surprise. I’ve had people e-mail me, who are moving to the city who say, “Where I live now, we have lots of dog parks. Tell me about your dog park.”
How do you envision City Bark?
I have great hope that this will be more than a dog park. That it will be used as an educational area. We want to do spay and neuters here through the SPCA, we want to partner with them. We can bring in kids from the public schools who don’t know proper care for a dog.
We want it to become a gathering place, a “meet me at the dog park” type of place. We want organizations to come and bring rescue dogs. We want dog training through the SPCA because they don’t have an East Bank campus. We hope that they may be able to use a piece of our dog park for educational opportunities. We want it to be for community use. It needs to be more than just a play area for dogs. That’s my dream for it.
For more information and to donate to NOLA City Bark, visit www.nolacitybark.org.
Or you can do your part by attending “Bar Barking” at Clever Wine Bar in the American Can Company Apartments on Wednesday, May 13 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Part of the proceeds from all wines bought goes directly to City Bark. They’ll even have some dog-themed wines!