It's not all about dogs. Owners get to socialize, too, at new dog parks in Brooklyn Park and New Hope.
Sadie smiled for the camera and showed off her ball at the Brookdale Park off-leash dog area. It’s one of three new dog parks in the north-metro area of New Hope and Brooklyn Park. Both cities ran year-long tests of their parks and had great response from dog owners and neighbors. In the background, Debbie Hooten watched her dog Bailey play with Otto (the white dog), owned by Renee Thomas.
New Hope's two new dog parks are in outdoor hockey rinks and are open during daylight hours from April to November. They are located in Civic Center Park, at 4401 Xylon Av. N., and Lions Park, at 38th and Oregon avenues.
Brooklyn Park's new park is a four-acre grassy expanse nestled between a wetland pond, sledding hill and baseball field in Brookdale Park, in the 7600 block of June Avenue North.
On a sunny morning last week, Scott Harms and his yellow lab, Indy, were taking their daily walk in Brookdale. Indy found a baseball as pheasants called from the surrounding woods and red-winged blackbirds tweeted.
"It's a great opportunity for dogs to socialize with other dogs, and for dog owners to socialize and meet their neighbors," said Jon Oyanagi, Brooklyn Park parks and recreation director. "We had very few problems during our pilot test."
Other area cities with dog parks include Plymouth, Minneapolis, Coon Rapids and Fridley. Crystal plans to expand Bassett Creek, one of its four dog parks, this spring to meet dog owner requests for more space, said Rick Rauen, parks superintendent.
Three Rivers Park District also is building a new dog park this year at Fish Lake Regional Park, 14900 Bass Lake Road in Maple Grove, a spokeswoman said. Three Rivers already operates a north metro dog park at Elm Creek Park Reserve. All seven metro-area counties now have dog parks.
University of Minnesota psychologist Mark Snyder said he has noticed the proliferation of dog parks and suspects canines are not the only winners.
"My sense is that the dog parks are providing benefits not only to dogs but also to their humans, providing opportunities to meet other people, socialize with them, learn more about dogs from other dog owners, etc.," he wrote in an e-mail. "Some people may be using the dog park as an opportunity to make social connections ... whereas others may use it as a way of better understanding their dogs -- and for some, it may be all about the dogs."
Many off-leash parks post rules requiring dogs to have rabies shots, and their owners to verbally control and clean up after their pets. The parks often facilitate pickup duties by providing plastic bag dispensers at entry points.
Brooklyn Park, which has more than 700 licensed dogs, will spend $17,500 this summer to erect two gates and about 1,900 feet of fence, add canine and human water fountains and a light pole at its dog park, which is open all year from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, Oyanagi said.
The City Council last week voted to increase dog license fees by $5 to help cover dog park capital and maintenance costs. Those who don't have a city dog license will be able to place a $3 daily fee in pay-envelope boxes by the gates, Oyanagi said. Community service officers will make random compliance checks.
Back at Brookdale, Webb watched her trim boxer, Cassie, chasing and nipping at Swerdlick's springer. "It's a good way to run the energy out of them," Webb said. "They're like kids. They have their little scrimmages here and there, but for the most part they are pretty friendly."
Cassie has learned what the word "park" means, Webb said.
"When she hears 'park,' she's out the door."
Jim Adams • 612-673-7658