Near Columbus, OH, the City of Gahanna Department of Parks & Recreation created a new dog park at Pizzurro Park. Community members had been requesting an off-leash dog park in the area and the redevelopment of Pizzurro Park offered the opportunity to grant the request and create a positive experience for the community.
Up until 2007, a small fenced-in area in an undeveloped park served as a dog park, and partially funded by a private citizen group, Pooch Playground, Inc. Due to its popularity and heavy use, it was often muddy and overcrowded. In 2007, the area was eliminated when the site was redeveloped in to a community park and the City's day camp program. At the same time, Pizzurro City was considering how to maintain the underused park in a flood plain along Big Walnut Creek.
While Pizzurro Park offered a shelter, two ball diamonds, basketball courts, a playground, canoe access, and fishing, the 23 beautiful acres of remote parkland had acquired a reputation for undesirable activities, creating discontent with donors and the community. To re-energize the park, assuage concerns, and fulfill the need for and off-leash dog area, Gahanna Parks & Recreation created a new plan. With the establishment of a Dog Park Advisory Committee (DPAC), the Department actively sought community input on how to make the space most beneficial and enjoyable. The DPAC consisted of community members, local dog park advocates, Parks Board members, city administration, and members of Pooch Playground, Inc. DPAC discussions led to the identification of user group priorities and allowed the Department to balance the desired design attributes with the resource requirements.
The new site replaced two softball fields with a four-acre fenced are with 6' chain link fencing (some of which was existing around the old outfields), sitting areas, waste stations, double entry gates, and paved paths to ensure accessibility. The new dog park includes four distinct areas: a shaded and fenced area for dogs 25 pounds or less; an agility area for all dogs; and two larger areas for dogs over 25 pounds. The larger areas can be operated separately or together as one large space, and when maintenance is being done in one area, the other remains open. Adjacent to the dog park, the Department preserved the existing playground, basketball court and shelter. A frequent visitor to the park stated, "I love that the Gahanna dog park has a paved trail with the park, and a sitting area to bring a laptop to work or socialize with other dog owners. I really get excited about going to the dog park and seeing how happy my dog gets. She is such a character and I know she brings joy to other dog owners who get to pet and play with her."
The entire park area is free to the community and while the park occasionally closes due to high water, Pizzurro Park is now one of the most visited parks in the City of Gahanna. The Department of Parks & Recreation maintains the space daily, provides turf care, and regularly inspects the fences and gates to ensure user safety. The park is on the priority list for snow removal because of year-round site use. User groups are often observed proactively self-policing: enforcing rules such as waster removal, confronting and reporting undesirable behaviors, and contacting the Department quickly to allow for speedy resolution of concerns.
The original dog park advisory committee members, park donors, and the community provide positive feedback about the site. Resident Lynn Vermillion, Dog Park Advisory Committee, and daily park user, mentions a story about an experience she had one morning talking with a young lady whom she did not know. The lady said, "I've lived here for several years but have never felt like I was a part of the community until the city built this dog park. Now, I come every day have met a lot of people. This park has become my community."