Columbus Indiana Dog Park Coming Soon! Update!
In an effort to keep Columbus Indiana residents current, concerning the ongoing planing and meetings for the Columbus Indiana Dog Park, here is an over-all view of the proceedings.
Columbus Indiana Dog Park Association, Inc.
For Meeting February 7, 2008, at 7 p.m., Donnor Center
(Draft revised 2-8-08)
Dog parks can be designed and constructed for relatively low costs, i.e., metal T-posts with wire, a gate, and non-irrigated turf, to relatively high costs, i.e., irrigated turf, wooden fences, shelters, etc. We hope to base our design decisions for our Columbus dog-park not only on utility and cost, but also on how the overall use and appearance of the dog park fits into the surrounding park or area. Below we will discuss how we have arrived at many of our design choices for the Columbus Indiana dog park.
Design Decisions - Where to Begin?
We started by observing existing dog parks to break apart their designs for our own use. Our review led us to identify design considerations we felt could make the dog park more pleasing for both human and animal users. While other sorts of parks have been refining their designs for 80 years or more, Dog Parks are a relatively recent innovation. We have only five to ten years of experience to draw from in creating our design. Recent dog parks have evolved considerably over the original dog parks, with each successive park taking the best part of previous designs and improving upon them with their own new ideas. To understand our design process, we briefly visited those early dog parks and identified the concerns a simple fenced field could not address.
Evolving Dog-Park Design
First-generation dog-parks tend to be just large enclosures with a single entry/exit gate. Although they function very well to contain dogs, they have challenges and are limited in aesthetic value. The biggest problem in one of these simple parks is turf wear. Because of the concentrated use at the single entry/exit gate, the turf disappeared, leaving a rutted, dirt entry path. If the turf throughout these parks was not rested, reseeded and maintained, large sections of the park were destroyed, unable to recover from year to year. The single entry/exit point in first-generation parks also posed another unique problem. It was very hard for owners to control the entering dog (because it was so excited to get in), and it was equally hard to prevent the dogs that were already in the park from getting out (to investigate the new dog). These issues were addressed in the next generations of dog-park design.
Turf Concerns-Two Large Dog Areas
Consultation with other parks has led us to the conclusion that the dog play areas will receive the same type of use/abuse as many sports fields, and maintenance decisions should be based on this conclusion. We will need to treat these fields as if they were overused sports fields and maintenance of the dog park needs to include mowing, fertilizing, aerating, resting, over-seeding (using both slicing and broadcast methods) and trimming. The seed mix needs to be one developed specially as a sports turf mix or high use mix and tolerant of the light conditions in our chosen sight (shade or sun). No matter how well you address the wear of the turf through careful maintenance, if use is not removed to give the grass an opportunity to grow unmolested, it will never recover. Based on this concern, our design discussion has included planning for field rotation, where one play area is rested while another is opened for active use.
Other parks are using this rotation system with great success. It seems the best way to handle turf recovery and maintenance here, especially in the potentially muddy areas of the flood plains we are now considering. The rotation schedule should be based on use, wear, time of year, natural moisture, compaction, etc., not the calendar. The park maintenance staff, in consultation with the CDPA, should make the decision as to when to rotate to the other play area. While we might tentatively plan for rotating approximately every third month, that schedule might need to be adjusted in actual practice.
Of course the amount of turf wear is directly related to the size of the enclosures and the amount of use the park receives. Using Lafayette's dog-park (also in a flood plain) as a model, our design incorporates two 2.5 acre large dog areas. We believe this gives us a good opportunity to preserve the turf and maintain a beautiful and functional area.
Small-Dog Area -
Because some large dogs have a prey instinct that can be triggered by smaller dogs running, and because some smaller dogs are intimidated by, or fail to be intimidated by, larger dogs, we have decided to include a separately enclosed small-dog area in our design. This area doesn't have to be very large as the dogs are smaller and should cause less damage to the turf. From what we have seen, .5 acres appears to be an adequate small-dog area. It is anticipated that with a field of this size the turf concerns will be minimal and we will not need here a second enclosed small-dog area for turf rotation.
The Entries to the more recent dog-parks include locking keyed systems to allow controlling access to the dog-park. This allows dog-park users to be screened for minimum health and safety standards; animals who are not vaccinated or are unhealthy, or who have owners who violate dog park policy could be denied access. The locked gate also helps limit vandalism and keeps unsupervised children out of the areas where dogs are running off-leash. Keyed entries also provide a means for raising money from the dog-park users for the ongoing maintenance of the park through membership fees. While the keyed or swipe entries can themselves be quite expensive, the described benefits are sufficient to lead us to include them in our local design.
The "Bullpen" entry --
Recent generation dog park design includes the addition of what we call the bullpen. This bullpen style entry addresses the issue of containing dogs as they enter or exit the park. The bullpen was an enclosed entry area, generally small (10' x 10' to 15' x 15'), with two gates. The first is the entry/exit gate used to get from the parking lot area into the bullpen; the second is a gate from the bullpen into the dog park play fields. The surface of the bullpen is generally some durable material, either hard (concrete) or soft (crushed stone) to avoid this high use area from becoming muddy or rutted. Some designs have included an additional surfaced area just inside the play fields, to help to disperse some of the concentrated use right at the entry/exit.
We have considered natural dog behaviors in shaping and designing the dog park, and the design of the bullpen is greatly influenced by these considerations. The entry and exit to the play fields will tend to be a natural congregation point for the dogs, and probably their owners as well. To break up crowding and allow easier exits and entrances, we are considering incorporating more than one access point to each large-dog area. Since our current thinking is that we would have a card-swipe or keyed entrance, and these entrance devices are quite costly, we have decided to increase the size of our bullpen. Our design incorporates a bigger, longer bull pen to allow several gates from the bull pen into the various fields from this one main point of keyed entry. These multiple field access points would also allow us to detour traffic from an entry if it was getting excessively worn, to allow recovery and spread out the traffic.
Enclosure Shape and materials-fencing
Fences are a major and visible component of any dog-park design, and a major expense. The fences are needed to contain the animals and protect other park users who are not participating in the dog-park and might not want to be approached by our dogs. The fences need to be functional, affordable, and aesthetically in keeping with the rest of the city park location.
Our design incorporates a five foot high chain-link fence. Some dog-parks with lower fences have indicated that four feet is too low and they wish they had installed higher ones. Some parks have 6 foot fences, but the extra height cost substantially more, and may not be necessary. We consider the minimum 5" height necessary to keep dogs from jumping over the fences, in or out, and hope it will also be high enough to discourage people from climbing over it or dropping their dogs over it.
There are some truly beautiful steel and aluminum fences available, but at $500+ for 10 linear feet installed, it seems beyond our reach. Wood is beautiful and costs less than these metal decorative fences, but it requires much more maintenance, blocks air and water flow, and would not hold up well to the regular flooding we expect at the sites currently under consideration. A review of fence options has led us to the conclusion that chain-link fencing is our best material. It is flexible, very low maintenance, strong, easily installed and available at a relatively low cost. It comes in several styles and colors, but we have learned that the vinyl-coated chain link is not only more expensive than the plain metal chain-link, but is also weaker.
Our plan includes bringing the fence all the way down to the ground. We have discussed trenching or burying the bottom edge of the fence to prevent dogs from digging or pushing under it. Anchoring the bottom edge might also serve to give the fence additional stability to withstand flood conditions. If we trenched and anchored the fence in a material such as concrete, asphalt or crushed stone, we might have the additional benefit of preventing weeds from growing against the fence. This would help reduce required trimming, lowering maintenance costs and assuring a tidy, well-groomed look to the fences. Trenching would cost more than just using an anchor wire to tack it into the ground, so we are looking into trenching as a phase II aspect of the project and currently pricing regular chain link with a smooth top and an anchored base.
There has been discussion about designing the shape of the play fields to avoid angles of 90 degrees or less so dogs can't get cornered by other dogs in the fields. The lack of sharp corners might also simplify mowing if planned right. Contouring the fences seems a relative minor adjustment that can be addressed once an actual site has been selected. We hope to contour the fencing without significantly impacting costs.
Summer in Indiana can be miserable without a bit of shade to rest in. To encourage year round use, we need to have some shade available in our large and small dog areas. In sites with existing mature trees, we are set for shade comfort, but need to be aware of the risk that too much shade will inhibit turf growth and recovery. In sites without existing mature trees, we will have to install some shade shelters. These shelters might be permanent structures, or temporary shelters to provide shade for a few years until we can get shade trees planted and matured. Several dog-parks suggest placing shade structures far enough into the play areas and away from the fences to limit entry point backups and dogs crowding against the fences.
The number, size and permanence of the shade shelters will depend on the actual site chosen. These shelters might be paid for with grants or contributions that require a specific capital improvement to finance. There has been discussion about locating benches within these shelters, and we might consider whether any rain protection is also desired when choosing a specific shelter design.
The dog park design requires access to clean drinking and wash water. We plan to have both a wash-off area and a water fountain available at our dog-park. We have no plans to supply bathroom facilities for human guests at this time.
We are looking at purchasing a three-tiered water fountain unit, with a regular-height fountain, a handicapped- accessible fountain and a dog-bowl fountain. This fountain might be located in the bullpen where it would be easy to maintain and clean, and available to all dog-park users, human and canine. If in the bullpen we will want it to be far from the keyed entrance as it might tend to be a natural congregation point, which is not the purpose of the bullpen. There has been some interest in placing drinking fountains in the play areas, so we plan to add additional fountains in the large dog and small dog areas when money permits as part of Phase II.
Our design also includes a doggie wash station for washing off muddy paws. This would be located immediately off the back or to one side of the bullpen as a small separate enclosure. The purpose is to allow park users to rinse off their pets' muddy feet before heading to their cars. We do not plan to provide a swimming area for the dogs, but being in flood plains means dirty paws more often than not.
Our design plan includes lighting in the bullpen area and parking lot, and as otherwise advisable for security reasons. Since dark comes early in the winter, and many of the potential users of the dog park plan to use it in the evenings, we need to have lighting in the parking area and in the bullpen. Additionally, the brighter and better lit the area, the more comfortable people will be and the easier it will be to properly monitor their dogs. This will probably require electricity on the site, and installation and maintenance of street light type lighting. The electric set up and some minimal lighting are considered necessary as part of the initial construction, but additional field lighting could be left for Phase II. Solar Power Lighting is also being investigated as a possible option.
We are planning on three benches per large dog area (6) and two in the small dog area for a total of eight benches. These should be located away from the fences and away from the entrance areas, and be somewhat scattered throughout the play areas. They should be immobile so they are not easily knocked over, stolen, or moved closer to the fence where they might be used by dogs or people to climb or jump the fences. They should also be durable and easily cleaned so they can withstand the flooding expected on the sites under consideration. Possibly one or more should be located in the shade in each play area.
Design Planning includes $300 per bench with 8 benches.
Waste receptacles & garbage cans-
We have planned for two regular garbage cans, one just outside the bullpen and one near the parking lot. These are outside the play areas to keep out off-leash dogs from getting into harmful trash. Tasty smelling trash might also lead to guarding or aggressive behavior, so most garbage and trash will need to be disposed of outside the play areas.
We are planning for 12 dog waste stations; one in the parking area, one in the bullpen, four in each of the large dog areas and two in the small dog area. These waste stations would be located with an eye toward convenient use and easy weekly collection. It is planned that these be located conveniently within the play areas and have courtesy collection bags attached.
Design Planning includes $200 to $300 per receptacle with 14 receptacles total.
Additional Design Interests-
Agility equipment has been requested by some interested members and is available at some parks. This might be an item we could get donated specifically or build ourselves if interest exists.
A time out space, a smaller separately enclosed area, is available in some parks, and we have a community member who might be willing to finance the fencing off of such an area. We do not currently see a need for this, but need to do more research to understand its uses before finalizing our design.
A lighted Kiosk is desirable in the long range future of the dog-park. A covered Kiosk outside the bullpen, possibly near the keyed entrance or the parking lot could be used for education, community outreach, posting rules, communicating with members and advertising our dog-park. Possibly we could include some sort of Photo Opportunity with the Kiosk to encourage people to take and share pictures of their dogs featuring our Dog-park logo. This would both publicize the dog-park, and be fun for the dog-park users.
South Central Realty
1015 Third Street
Columbus Indiana, 47201
Office: 812-378-3331 ext.122
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