Story: Erika Shych
Multimedia: Kathleen Jordan
Hidden on street corners and in parks throughout the city and county are places to take your furry friends for some off-leash freedom. Though different in their perks, they all call themselves the same name: dog parks.
Paw Point Dog Park
Tucked on the peninsula of Robert E. Lee Park in Baltimore County is one of the newer dog parks in the area, Paw Point Dog Park. Voted “Best Dog Park” by Baltimore Magazine in 2012, Paw Point sits on just over an acre of land.
Since the park opened in October 2011, the membership doubled what the founders expected it to be.
“We opened this time last year and our goal was to get to 500 members, which was what the other dog park, Hannah More, was,” Co-President Siobahn O’Brien Budnitz said. “That’s what we thought would be a good financial base to upkeep the park. We ended up doubling that number.”
With over 1,000 members, you would think that the park would be crowded with dogs all the time; however, that is not the case.
“Evenings and weekends tend to be busier but the maximum I’ve ever seen in here is about 25 dogs,” O’Brien Budnitz said.
To access Paw Point, dog owners must first submit an application and pay their membership fees. An annual fee of $35 covers the membership for two dogs for one year. The owner also must provide proof of rabies vaccination and a city or county dog license.
Once a member of the park, each owner receives the gate code to the park and each dog receives a blue dog tag to wear that identifies them with a number.
“We give dog tags, so every dog that is in here should be wearing a blue tag,” O’Brien Budnitz said. “Every tag is numbered so that if a dog is in here with the wrong tag, I can look at that up immediately and find out who owns the dog.”
Along with the membership, Paw Point has a few other rules which they require their members to follow in order to maintain the highest level of safety. Children under the age of 12 are not permitted to be in the park at any time.
“If you’re ever in here with all these dogs running, you will see immediately why a kid under 12 should not be in here,” O’Brien Budnitz said. “It’s dangerous. You never know what your kid is going to do with another dog or vice versa.”
One of the key, unique features of Paw Point is the water access inside the dog park. Because it sits on the peninsula of the park, members have a place to let their dogs take a dip in Lake Roland. This fun feature lets the pups get their paws wet and swim around.
Another perk of the park is the amount of space for dogs to run. Because the area is so large, dogs have to opportunity to stretch their legs and run up, down and all around. There is even a place for them to get a sip of water at the doggy water fountain.
Paw Point provides its members with not only a place for their dogs to run, but a place for them to socialize as well.
“We’ve even had people who don’t own dogs want to join,” Co-President Laura Burden said.
At the end of the month, Paw Point will be holding their first “Hallo-wine” event for their members. The day will include a wine and cheese social along with a dog costume contest. The event will give members a chance to socialize and meet each other and give the dogs a chance to show off their costumes.
Although only open a year, Paw Point has proven itself to be a positive addition to Robert E. Lee Park.
Canton Dog Park
Located just steps from the water, on the corner of Toone and South Bouldin streets, is the city’s first dog park, Canton Dog Park. The park was created by the Canton Community Association in 2002 after realizing there was a need for somewhere for dogs to run around.
The park, which is a fenced-in rectangular shape, is a flat surface of asphalt and grass which dogs can run around in. There are two different areas within the park, one for large dogs and one for smaller dogs.
“When it is high volume time it’s great to let the big dogs run and be rambunctious and the little dogs can sniff around here and do what they want to,” President of The Friends of Canton Dog Park Beth Christman said.
Christman has been involved with the dog park since she moved to Canton in 2002, right after the park opened. She said that dog parks are really a necessity in the city.
“It’s really a great place for your dog to get some exercise safely without any interference from traffic or kids or anything like that,” Christman said.
Because the park is based on donations, it costs about $2,500 a year to keep the park going. Things like doggy poop bags are donated by the community, so that the dog park doesn’t have to supply them.
In the efforts to improve the park, Christman is working closely with the city to make some new renovations including tearing up the asphalt, removing old tree stumps and replacing the ground with a more manageable surface.
“This will be different from the other parks, such as Patterson Park, which is doing asphalt and a synthetic surface,” Christman said. “It’s nice, but it’s also high maintenance because you have to wash those surfaces down a lot.”
Besides the aesthetics of the park, it really is a place to come and socialize with neighbors. Christman said her favorite part about the dog park is the friends she has made.
“I can come in here and know all the dogs and owner’s names,” Christman said. “It can take me about six months to learn the owners’ names but I’ll know the dogs’ names in about two minutes.”
Even though the park attracts mostly Canton locals during the week, they attract a different crowd on the weekend. People will drive all the way from Baltimore County just to experience the Canton atmosphere.
“Everybody likes to come to Canton,” Christman said. “They’ll drive in and park and take their dogs for a walk around the neighborhood because it is such a dog friendly area.”
Patterson Dog Park
This recent construction is part of the park’s newest addition, a dog park. Patterson Dog Park, which is being constructed in old tennis courts, will be the parks only place for dogs to run off-leash.
Most owners, like Bobbie Bardzik, are excited for the new park.
“We need a space that the dogs can actually go off-leash and run around and be contained so we don’t get fined for having them off-leash,” Bardzik said. “They do need to run; a walk just doesn’t always cut it.”
Like the Canton Dog Park, the park will consist of a small dog area and a large dog area. Other cool features include doggy water fountains, benches and trees, turf boulders and a stone bridge.
The rules and regulations for owners are the same that similar parks in the city have. All dogs must be neutered or spayed and must be registered annually with the Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter. They also must be up to date on their rabies vaccinations.
Although most owners are excited for the park, there are some who are skeptical of the new addition.
Roddy Meade, who lives in the area and has been walking his two dogs in Patterson Park for six years now, is waiting to see the park to make his decision.
“I heard it is going to be really small so I don’t know,” Meade said. “If it’s big enough for them to run, then yeah, I’ll be excited!”
The park is set to be completed by the end of October and will be open to the public.