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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dogs Find Room to Run in Milwaukee

County residents work hard to see dog parks on the rise

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The service road leading to the entrance of Granville Dog Park (11718 W. Good Hope Place) is lined with cars on a surprisingly early spring evening, as dogs and dog owners select one of the two snow-covered paths leading into the park. Secluded in the northwest corner of Milwaukee County, the 25-acre space provides the most diverse terrain of the county's dog parks—alternating between wooded areas, hills and fields. Though Granville is a nice place to spend a weekend afternoon, the journey can be quite a haul for those coming from the other side of town. This problem was even more apparent when it was Milwaukee County's only such park.

Robin Barry, president of Residents for Off-Leash Milwaukee Dog Parks (ROMP), was among those dog owners leaving Milwaukee County in search of fenced-in exercise areas.

"If you lived on the East Side, or anywhere else, it just wasn't convenient," Barry recalls. "At the time, I lived in Bay View, so I was driving to Grafton to use the fenced-in dog park." ROMP members connected in their shared search to find safe, clean and convenient spaces in which to exercise their dogs. Founded in 2002, with the mission to "establish and maintain off-leash dog exercise areas in Milwaukee County through community and municipal partnerships," the volunteer-run nonprofit was integral to the initial development of the Milwaukee County Dog Exercise Area (DEA) system and has been essential in its continued success.

"The proposal we had put together for (Milwaukee) County was modeled after the system that Dane County uses, which is that they have several dog parks throughout the county. There is an annual permit you pay to use all the dog parks, to maintain them," Barry explains. "That is what we originally pitched, but it didn't go anywhere until (Milwaukee County Parks Director) Sue Black was hired. When she was hired, she immediately said, 'Done deal. We're going to do this.' ... The idea was to have several off-leash dog parks so that no matter where you lived in the county, one was close by and accessible."

Runway DEA (1214 E. Rawson Ave.), a 26-acre expanse in Oak Creek appropriately named for its proximity to Mitchell International Airport, was in part selected as a site because of its location far from Granville Dog Park, Barry says. Entirely fenced-in (Granville is the only unfenced site), Runway features a "fetch lane" when the snow thaws and a separate fenced-in area for small dogs. The stand-alone DEA opened in 2005, and through community involvement and ROMP's partnership with Milwaukee County Parks leadership, the construction of more dog parks followed.

Situated hillside in Wauwatosa, the Currie Park DEA (3535 N. Mayfair Road) includes 1.5 acres with a pleasant view of the Menomonee River Parkway. It opened in 2009, the same year as the Estabrook Park DEA (4400 N. Estabrook Drive), a former dumpsite that, according to Milwaukee County Parks Marketing Director Jeff Baudry, had become "overgrown and intrusive." The land was transformed into a 3-acre dog park, complete with a separate area for smaller dogs.

The opening of the Warnimont Park DEA (5400 S. Lake Drive) in 2010 meant a more convenient location for South Side dog owners. The 5-acre site includes a fenced-off area for small dogs and FIXX TOO, a satellite location of FIXX Coffee House (3558 E. Sivyer Ave., St. Francis).

2011 Off-Leash Dog Exercise Area Annual Permit applications can be downloaded from the Milwaukee County Parks website (countyparks.com) and mailed, faxed or brought into three Milwaukee County Parks locations, as specified on the application. Permits cost $25 (with a $5 charge per additional dog) for Milwaukee County residents. Discounts are available for seniors and individuals with disabilities. DEA permits can also be purchased from the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC), the Wisconsin Humane Society and additional locations listed on countyparks.com. ROMP (milwaukeedogparks.org) also provides information on DEA permits and Milwaukee County dog parks, including updates on the Riverwest/Johnson Controls site. For more information on Granville Dog Park, visit granvilledogpark.org.

Emily Patti is a student at Mount Mary College who writes about culture for the
Shepherd Express.
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