Roanoke Pooches Unleashed: Long-Awaited Dog Park Opens In City

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Roanoke Mayor David Bowers with his dog “Catcher.” City Council members Court Rosen and David Trinkle are at the podium.
Roanoke Mayor David Bowers with his dog “Catcher.” City Council members Court Rosen and David Trinkle are at the podium.
Roanoke Mayor David Bowers with his dog “Catcher.” City Council members Court Rosen and David Trinkle are at the podium.

A portion of Highland Park is now “going to the dogs” after Roanoke officials and residents dedicated the city’s first off-leash dog park last week.  Opened after some controversy, the one-acre space is tucked in one corner of the inner city green space.

Joyce Worrell brought Baby, her 2-year-old Chihuahua. She’s never lived anywhere with a free, off-leash dog park.

“This is great ‘cause I’ve got another one (dog),” Worrell said. Her male Australian Shepherd mix was walking the perimeter, checking out the new park, which includes several fake fire hydrants and a water station.  “He loves it, to be off (leash), ‘cause they pull, you know, when you walk. … pulling and pulling and pulling and wanting to go, ‘cause I’m not walking fast enough.  So now, I can just (say) ‘O. K., go’.  He’s just walking around, just smelling.  His nose hasn’t come up off the ground.”  She says her dogs have already made friends.

Todd Neese  brought Abby, his 7-year-old Japanese Chin.  It’s also his first visit to an off leash dog park. “I think it’s great, he said. “All different kinds of breeds of dogs and they all seem to be getting along.  I just think it’s outstanding.  You can come out and socialize with other people while your dogs are playing, so it’s great.”

Roanoke City Mayor David Bowers, on hand with his own dog, thanked the members of NewVA Connects, a young professionals group, Old Southwest, Inc. and the Roanoke City Parks and Recreation Department for working together on the project.  Local companies also donated or gave discounts for materials used to build the park. He also reminded people to use the Mutt Mitt stations and clean up after their pets.

According to the rules for the park, all dogs must be at least 12 weeks old and current with all vaccinations; they must have a current license and rabies tag, and be supervised at all times.

The one-acre dog park is divided into two areas, one for small dogs and the other for larger dogs, and is open daily from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm.  Surrounded by black vinyl-coated chain link fencing, the park is equipped with a double entry gate to prevent dogs from slipping past their owners on the way out.  Benches are available where people can sit and relax while their dog burns off excess energy. Future plans include walking paths and additional landscaping.