Anthony Park near the baseball field
Just off of Solana Road
SE corner of the city's municipal complex
SW corner of the Naples Municipal Airport
NAPLES — Dog lovers, rejoice.
Naples residents are banding together in hopes of creating a place where they can ditch the leashes and let their pooches play in peace.
Naples architect Matthew Kragh said a group of residents have approached the city about building an off-the-leash dog park somewhere in Naples. The hope, Kragh said, would be to create a park on a piece of under-utilized, city-owned property.
The move comes about two months after people were asked to leave Gulfview Middle School’s field, where people had been bringing their dogs for an hour each Sunday morning for about a year.
“By the end there were 60 some dogs,” Kragh said. “We realized it was the perfect place to let our dogs off the leash. It was very well taken care of, everyone was very respectful of the property.”
That came to an end about two months ago, when Naples resident Paul Frey said a school official pulled up one Sunday morning and said the group wasn’t allowed to be there.
Collier County schools Chief Operating Officer Michele LaBute said in an e-mail Tuesday that any group wanting to use school property for an event needs to go through a facility lease procedure. That procedure, she said, “prohibits animals for obvious health, sanitation (and) safety reasons.”
The end of Sunday morning puppy play dates meant the beginning of a new project: Finding a way to build an off-leash dog park in Naples.
There’s one other dog park in Collier County, Rover Run Dog Park at Veterans Community Park in North Naples that is run by Collier County parks and recreation.
“That’s like driving to Fort Myers these days,” Kragh said of the North Naples dog park.
Although the county does not keep statistics about visitors to Rover Run, county parks and recreation spokeswoman Camden Smith said it is “busy regularly.”
Bonita Springs parks and recreation manager Keith Larson said the same thing about Bonita’s dog run at Depot Park. Larson said he usually sees two, three or four people at the park with their pets on any given day.
Frey said he’s positive a park in Naples would get just as much use, if not more.
“I know that I would use it at least once a day,” he said. “When you look at the amenities Naples has, they have everything but a dog park. (Right now) we meet in places where we know we shouldn’t be. It would be so much nicer (if we had someplace) where we could go and not worry about doing something we shouldn’t do.”
Naples planning director Robin Singer said a dog park wouldn’t necessarily need to go through a special zoning process, depending on where it’s located. And while her department hasn’t heard of any official plans for a dog park, she said her staff is always open to take a look at what people are planning.
Naples City Manager Bill Moss said he’s been in touch with Kragh about the possibility of a park, but there hasn’t been any recent discussion.
Kragh said the group has targeted four city-owned properties in Naples. Their first choice is an open space near the southwest corner of the Naples Municipal Airport. Slightly off the beaten track, the space lends itself to becoming a dog park.
The three other locations in Naples are the southeast corner of the city’s municipal campus on Riverside Circle; a site just off Solana Road; and at Anthony Park near the baseball field.
Charlotte Reed, a New York-based pet trend expert, said size doesn’t necessarily matter when it comes to dog parks, as long as there’s some space for the canines to run off the leash. She said it’s common in larger cities to find small plots of land designated as puppy playgrounds.
Rover Run in North Naples is about 11⁄2 acres, while the Bonita Springs park is about 2 acres large.
Kragh said the group was using about three-quarters of Gulfview’s field on Sunday mornings.
Reed said it isn’t unusual to see small groups of people, like the Naples group, working together to create dog parks in cities. “It’s a great community initiative,” Reed said. “It’s like mothers with babies. Every community you go to there’s a mommy and me group, dog owners are the same way. It’s healthy for the community.”
Kragh said he knows this project may not be tops on the city’s agenda because of the budget crunch, but said he hoped dog lovers would help when it came to creating the space.
Want more information about the efforts to start a dog park in Naples? E-mail Paul Frey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow Naples City Hall reporter Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster at twitter.com/ndn_jbuzzacco.