Dogs have always been important to Roseanne Conrad, both in her personal and her professional life. “My mother claims that I was born with a puppy on my lap,” she maintains. This January, Conrad combined her love of dogs with her professional experiences in recreation management and dog park development to create the National Dog Park Association (NDPA), an organization founded to “provide consultation, guidance and a source of networking for those attempting to start a dog park in their area and those already operating one.”
Prior to her latest venture, Conrad served for five years as executive director of the Park at Morrison’s Cove, a nonprofit family recreation complex in Martinsburg, Pennsylvania. During her time there, she began to develop a dog park in her community, a task that has taken four years so far.
“We had a four-acre parcel of land that was being unused, but we were maintaining the grounds with no income to support the cost,” Conrad recalls. “I had been reading about dog parks, and as a lifelong dog owner myself, I thought a dog park would fill a need and bring much-needed income into our organization. I also thought that by bringing new people through a new market into the park, it would introduce them to the other amenities offered there, including a campground, outdoor swimming pool, children’s play park, picnic pavilions and much more.”
Conrad launched a committee to gauge community interest for a dog park, explore the feasibility of building one in their area, develop initial plans for the park and carry them out. Within two months, the group had gathered more than 3,000 names of community members who supported the idea of having a dog park. However, opposition to the location forced the group to relocate their initial plans, but they soon found an ideal 10-acre parcel of land that suited the needs outlined for the park. Still, the group needed to clear a number of hurdles and red tape before their plans could become reality. Because of the complications, the project required a lot of research, through which Conrad hoped to glean some insight from others who had already traveled this road. Finding no dedicated community specific to dog park planners and managers, Conrad decided to launch one herself.
“First of all, I would like to gather a group of individuals who have been through this process before,” she says. “I would like to include those who have built municipal or community parks, those who have built fee-based parks but operate as a nonprofit organization, and those who have built a dog park(s) as a business. This group would be charged with establishing standards of practice to which municipal and private dog parks may refer during the planning, building and operating phases of their park. In addition, I would like to form additional committees or teams to address matters such as working with community officials, land acquisition, the possible provision of group liability insurance, product and material buying groups, event and fundraising brainstorming opportunities, social media marketing and much more.”
Conrad also plans to hold the first national dog park conference in 2015. Currently, she is managing operations of NDPA by herself, although she plans to bring on an assistant and a part-time social media manager very soon. Although progress is starting off slowly, she hopes membership will soon grow to further promote the positive benefits of dog parks and their availability to more people and their pets nationwide.
“Dogs are our partners in so many things, and it’s only fitting that there are now dog parks where dogs and people can socialize and engage in so many ways to strengthen the human-canine bond,” Conrad says. “It’s fun to see a dog who has never been off a leash before run free for the first time, especially with another dog. It’s almost as though they discovered they have wings.”
Danielle Taylor is the Senior Editor of Parks & Recreation Magazine.
PetSafe Bark for Your Park Contest
PetSafe, a manufacturer of pet products for safety, containment, training and care, is holding a “Bark for Your Park” contest that will award five cash prizes to cities nationwide to help them build or enhance a community dog park. Contest winners will be determined by popular vote on the contest website, with the overall leader receiving $100,000 for their dog park and the runners-up for the leading city in the small, medium and large categories winning $25,000 each. The “Bark from Your Heart” winner, which will be the city with the highest percentage of votes compared to their city’s population, will also receive $25,000. In early June, 15 finalists were chosen based on availability of land, civic leader support, population size and the total number of votes, and these finalists are now in the final push to gather support for their parks. Voting will be open until July 31, and the winners will be announced August 7. To learn more or vote for one of the finalists, click here.
To outfit your dog park or make your parks friendlier to canine visitors and their human companions, check out the following suppliers: