A tired dog is a good dog. Experts agree that with plenty of exercise he or she will be less hyper, less likely to get into trouble and generally happier. Soon you’ll be able to exercise your dog at Fort Harrison State Park in a spacious dog park about to open that is a new, convenient option for many dog owners.
When an exchange of land with the city of Lawrence gave the Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources and Ft. Harrison a chunk of isolated yet urban space, thoughts turned to a dog park to put the largely unused area to good use. “We see lots of people walking their dogs on trails in the state park and know that dog parks are popular and successful in urban park systems elsewhere,” commented Doug Wickersham, property manager. “Providing outdoor recreation opportunities while managing and conserving our natural and cultural resources is at the heart of our mission.”
One national estimate puts a conservative number of pet dogs in the Geist area at more than six thousand. Currently there is only one dog park in the northeast Indianapolis area. It sits on less than three acres of unshaded land just off Sunnyside Road and 63rd street.
Beyond the obvious exercise advantage, other good reasons to bring your dog to a dog park include socialization (with dogs as well as people); physical and mental stimulation (which lessens destructive and annoying behaviors); educational opportunities as dog owners network; and community benefits of providing a destination for dog owners away from other activities.
The Ft. Harrison dog park will open in three stages totaling nearly ten acres of partially wooded land that includes a pond. The first area – the smallest – features open grass with some shade. It is scheduled to open Labor Day weekend. There will be a water station, benches and waste stations with bags. Planners are still waiting for the grass to take root and fill in the large dirt areas. The remaining two areas are scheduled for a 2014 opening and will include a shelter and a five-acre “adventure area” with rugged woods and a large pond for dogs who like to swim. Testing is still being conducted on the pond water to ensure safety.
Each exercise area is surrounded by a six-foot fence. As dog park usage increases, native wildlife such as deer, rabbits and squirrels will likely adapt to using areas outside the fenced perimeter to avoid interaction with your pet.
Entrance to the dog park is limited to Fall Creek Parkway on the north side of the state park. A $75 fee (per dog) buys members an access card to this gated area. Go to their site to download the application and rules for the park. If you have suggestions or questions, please visit the Ft. Harrison park office or email the DNR North Regional Manager Carl Lindell at clindell@dnr.IN.gov.