By Kim Guenther
President, Claudius Crozet Park Board
It was about a year and a half ago that many of us gathered with our best friends of all shapes and sizes and cut the ribbon on the brand new Dog Park. When I think of the Crozet Dog Park project, I can’t help smiling. Perhaps it was all the many beers we consumed at the Starr Hill Brewery as part of our dog park fundraising effort (we had to do it, right?) or the many community-minded people who stepped up to make the Crozet Dog Park one of the best in Virginia.
Since the grand opening, we’ve had several volunteer days to replenish the mulch. Our friends with Albemarle County Parks and Recreation (ACPR) re-graded the small dog park enclosure to facilitate better drainage and ACPR replaced spigots in both enclosures. A local family made an anonymous and well-timed gift last spring, enabling construction of a new covered pavilion. On a hot day, there’s nothing better than sitting under this pavilion with other dog owners while our dogs fly around the enclosure. The new .85-mile paved perimeter trail makes walking to the Dog Park easier and more direct. And, thanks to work by the Crozet Trails Crew, a growing number of neighborhood trails give easy access to Crozet Park and the dog park.
With many projects at Crozet Park we look for opportunities for incremental improvements and the dog park is no different. Earlier this year we conducted a short survey to identify peak times for play dates and to hear feedback on the current form of the dog park. What follows is a summary of survey results.
Most popular days and time blocks for dog park visits:
Monday through Friday – the preferred time block was 5-6 p.m.; 6 p.m. to dusk and noon to 2 p.m. time blocks were second and third ranked by respondents.
Saturday – the preferred time block was noon to 1 p.m.; responses for 10-11 a.m., 11-noon and 3-4 time blocks tied for second,
Sunday – three time blocks were tied for the most responses: 10-11 a.m., 11-noon and noon to 1 p.m.
The survey found enthusiastic and happy dog park users as well as a few suggestions and requests. Examples of some comments include: “great location” and, “we particularly like the leisurely walk via greenway trails from our house.”
Other comments commended the overall design, fencing, seating, availability of water and the mix of sun and shade. A handful of comments remarked on how covering all of the dog activity area in pine bark mulch avoided the muddy, sloppy conditions common in other dog parks. A few dog owners that said the thick mulch made traction difficult for their dogs.
Thoughts on what users liked least or wanted to change about the dog park included:
The small dog enclosure is rarely used and may present an opportunity for other uses (e.g. an obstacle course),
The big rocks situated in different area of the enclosures are seen as a potential safety hazard for dogs running at speed and should be removed,
Overall, the area is a bit wet and some parts of slopes are slippery,
Trashcans for poop bags could be more accessible.
Action is being planned to address some of the most common concerns.
While there are no plans to reconfigure the small dog area, we will look at flexible uses of the space. Overall, awareness and use of the dog park use are growing, making it possible that future use of the small dog area will expand.
Large rocks will be moved out of the main enclosure this summer in response to safety concerns.
Mulch will be added twice a year as part of the Park’s two volunteer days: the April “Pitch-in at the Park” and “United Way Day of Caring” (Sept. 20 this year).
Trash containers are sited to make collection as simple as possible and their location won’t be changed for now.
One to two more benches will be added to the large enclosure.
Survey respondents were also enthusiastic about potential future dog-centered events. In fact, comments from the survey helped set direction for the inaugural slate of events, the first of these a “Yappy Hour” on June 25 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the dog park. Crozet Park is partnering with The Animal Connection, Countryside Pet Grooming and other local dog-related organizations to help sponsor this free event. There will be treats and goody bags, dog toys, and refreshments for both dogs and owners. The event is a chance to socialize with other dog lovers, arrange play dates and increase awareness of local area dog-related services and dog friendly businesses. Depending on the participation of this first Yappy Hour, we may do additional events later this summer and fall. Additional information about this event will be posted to the Crozet Dog Park Facebook page.
Crozet Park and Albemarle County Parks and Recreation (ACPR) continue to work together for the benefit of the Crozet Dog Park; we benefit from this effective private/public partnership. But even with these strong ties and the resources of both Crozet Park and ACPR, volunteers are the primary source of labor for the park. The park’s next volunteer day is the United Way Day of Caring on September 20.