Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Case for a Dog Park on SPI - An Open Letter to the SPI City Council

I just sat down and read the spiffy booklet meant to help me become an informed voter when the town’s bond elections comes up in May. The art is awesome; the descriptions concise; the tie-ins to the Comprehensive Plan clearly indicated; the explanation of the additional taxes I can expect to pay easily understood. And did I mention the art is awesome? I am not joking; I who was at one time adamantly opposed to spending money on a community center am now leaning towards supporting it. The city has done a good job of selling me on these community improvements and I commend our city council on their efforts.

The only place I would rather live than the SPI I know and love would be the SPI depicted in those o-so-pretty drawings....

But there is one more teensy-weensy amenity I would beg the town’s planners to consider implementing sooner rather than later:

The Case for a Dog Park

I recently returned from a brief stint as a guest winter Texan operative working undercover at Bentson Palm Village RV Park in Mission. The place is humungous (over 800 sites and still mostly full as of mid-March) and was crawling with Canadians and Midwesterners - very friendly types and I couldn’t help but notice their youth and vitality as well as the fact that so many of them travel with dogs -- and not just little dogs, either.

The RV Park itself is lovely - nicely vegetated and well-maintained, located right across from Bentson State park and just down the way from the butterfly sanctuary. But one of the coolest things about this resort is the dedicated dog run and dog agility park. It is a huge fenced area - stickerburr-free and outfitted with a palapa and shady benches for dogpeople, water bowl (and a spigot to fill it), and a poop bag dispenser and trash cans. There were tennis balls and tennis ball flingers. It was doggy heaven and after a few tense butt-sniffing moments, all the dogs within adjusted just fine to one another’s presence and proceeded to have big fun each and every time we visited it. This was my (and my dogs) first dog-park experience and it was overwhelmingly positive.

I know that a lot of the folks who live on the island have dogs. I also know that a lot of our visitors have dogs: many of whom travel with their canines, and I think many more would if we made it easy and pleasurable for them. I myself rent out a dog-friendly condo and a majority of my guests take advantage of the opportunity to bring the family dog(s) along on vacation. How wonderful would it be to offer them a place where their dogs can run free and socialize with other dogs - and where dogpeople can socialize with each other! What an amazing marketing opportunity for the town to be able to tout itself as the doggone-friendliest island in Texas -- or maybe the world!

Right now the town is sitting on a piece of property (next to the Travelodge) that isn’t being used for anything. Put a fence up and you’ve got instant dog park. Sure, it would take a little money to do it as right as Bentson Palm Village does it, but hold a few fundraisers or even charge folks a little bit to use it.

Or here’s another idea that wouldn’t cost the town a cent: designate a certain block of time - say 6-9 AM - as free dog on the beach time. Folks who don’t like dogs could walk earlier or later. Dogpeople would be expected to pick up poop and police their own animals and could still be cited for failure to do so. I saw this very plan in action at a beach community in Australia and it sure seemed to work beautifully. Since our leash ordinance is currently being enforced on a complaint-driven basis, it wouldn’t really even change things much and I think we could create a lot of good will for the island by advertising our dog-friendly beaches and accommodations.

I would ask the esteemed members of our city council to give this idea some serious thought, please -- and thank you.


Blogger Erin said...

What a great idea! We've been going to SPI for vacation for years now (always with our 2 pups) and have always talked about how there should be a dog beach section or time. I think it would be a great marketing point for the island, as well as an asset to residents. When I lived in a community with a dog park I knew all my neighbors (and their dogs), it was a friendlier place. I have been to the dog beach in Huntington Beach, CA (www.dogbeach.org) and it is great. And people shouldn't worry about doggy messes on the beach, if someone cares enough to take their dog to the park or beach then they care enough to clean up after them. Keep up the good work! :)

8:24 AM  
Blogger Lucinda said...

I sent this link to the mayor and to all the city council members, two of whom (thank you, Courtney and JoAnn) immediately responded in a way that would indicate they are open to - if not openly supportive of - the idea.

I would greatly appreciate more ideas and feedback on the idea from both residents and visitors.

10:29 AM  

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