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Pay to Play
Once free, some dog parks now require a hefty fee.
Dogs play at Dogbone Meadow in Novato, Calif.

When we lived in New Orleans, we regularly took our dogs to a fenced-in model airplane  field in the middle of City Park to play.  Friends who lived Uptown took their pups to a grassy levee area along the Mississippi River.  On especially hot days, we’d go to the lakefront, where Bayou St. John met Lake Pontchartrain, forming a perfectly shallow, sandy area for the dogs and their people. The good news was that all of these gathering places were free. The downside? None of them were official dog parks, which meant we could lose the space. For example, bicyclists and horseback riders (understandably) protested dogs chasing them as they rode along the levee. (New Orleans will soon have two legal dog parks, City Bark and the Louisiana SPCA Dog Park.)  

However, as much as I longed for legal dog parks, I was shocked by the sticker price of said puppy play areas when we moved to the Chicago area. If you’re lucky enough to have a nice off-leash spot nearby, the resident fees aren’t too bad – generally $10-$50. But the closest fenced park – just 10 minutes away – is outside of our county, so we have to pay $150 for the first dog and $25 for each one thereafter. There is a free dog park about 15 minutes away, but it’s not fenced and one boundary is bordered by a fairly busy road.

So I feel the pain of a group of California dog lovers whose park access might change from free to a $75 annual fee. I can understand the need for some kind of fee to cover park maintenance and “amenities,” such as poop bags, but $75 seems a bit much. Regulars to Dogbone Meadow in Novato, Calif., are upset and protesting the fee, in part because visitors become a family of sorts and not everyone will be able to afford to come if the fee is implemented. One of the best things about dog parks is serving as a social equalizer. No one cares what you do or how much money you make. All they want to talk about are dogs.

Do you pay a fee for your local dog park? If so, how much and do you think it’s worth it?  


Julia Kamysz Lane, owner of Spot On K9 Sports and contributing editor at The Bark, is the author of multiple New Orleans travel guides, including Frommer’s New Orleans Day by Day (3rd Edition). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.

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Submitted by Susan Vaitekunas | May 1 2009 |

My dog and I currently take advantage of a municipal dog park completely fenced witn 2 double gated entries..There is no fee to use this park but we do pay $35 annually as a municipal liscensing fee,not to mention the thousands I pay in property taxes Our city of two million humans has about 15 of these dog parks .I would be willing to pay dog park fees if I felt me and my dog were getting something in return for our money such as a ground surface that was more paw friendly(currently rather large sharp chunks of gravel)and ideally some sort of monitoring system that would ensure better enforcement of the rules.Like many dog park users I get riled by the people who bring dog aggressive dogs and small children into the place Atim and I think of as our little Eden in the city.

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