Central Bark: Proposed off-leash dog park in Naples could be members-only

Rendering of Central Bark, Naples dog park proposed for Riverside Circle near the intersection of Central Avenue and Goodlette-Frank Road.

Rendering of Central Bark, Naples dog park proposed for Riverside Circle near the intersection of Central Avenue and Goodlette-Frank Road.

Central Bark — the proposed Naples off-leash dog park — is one paw closer to becoming a reality.

The group behind the park is scheduled to present its plan to Naples City Council at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

The park — which will tentatively be built on the city’s campus on Riverside Circle — will include space for small and large dogs, sidewalks, fences and water fountains.

The two-phase project comes with a projected cost of more than $205,000 and the group hopes to raise as much in private funding for the park as possible, said Naples attorney Will Dempsey.

“This is going to be the mac daddy of dog parks,” said Naples architect Matthew Kragh.

Kragh – along with Dempsey and resident Paul Frey – has been petitioning the city for a dog park for the past several months.

“I’m championing it,” Mayor Bill Barnett said of the group’s plan. “I think it’s awesome.”

Former Councilwoman Penny Taylor first raised the issue of a city dog park in June after residents spoke to her about the need for an off-leash dog park.

“I think there’s a need and a desire to do it,” Taylor said recently. “But I think we have to have true public participation for that.”

Advocates for the dog park said the immediate need arose over the summer, after a small group of residents were asked to leave Gulfview Middle School property, where they had been letting their dogs run free.

There are two other dog parks in Collier County: Rover Run at Veterans Community Park in North Naples and Canine Cove at Mackle Park on Marco Island.

Canine Cove was completely funded by private donors, said Deb Chapman, chairwoman of Friends of Canine Cove. The group raised $52,000 between June 2009 and October 2009, and Chapman said donations are still being sent to the city of Marco Island.

It is a public park that is open to any dog that has a license and its shots.

Dempsey said his group plans to help pay for maintenance but not through voluntary donations. Instead the group’s plan includes an annual fee which would go toward operating and maintenance costs.

Dempsey said last week the group was thinking about a $120 per year, per dog fee.

Central Bark would be the only members-only dog park in Collier County. And while Canine Cove accepts donations to help maintain the park, Rover Run is completely free, said Collier County parks spokeswoman Camden Smith.

That park, Smith said, was built in 2001 using capital improvement funds. The park, which open to the public, is maintain by the Collier County Parks and Recreation department.

City Councilman Sam Saad said Thursday he is supportive of the idea but he is concerned about who will pay for the project.

“It is a benefit to the community and, like most ideas that come to council, I think it’s a great one. But I want to know how it’s going to be paid for,” Saad said. “I’m not prepared to spend very much public money on new projects when we have a budget shortfall in the general fund and the CRA fund (projects) are double what the budget is.”

Barnett said he’s confident dog lovers will come out in support of the project.

“We are a great, giving community and this is something the people of Naples are absolutely hungering for,” Barnett said.

Naples City Council will discuss the Central Bark proposal at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Naples City Hall.

Connect with Naples reporter Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster at www.naplesnews.com/staff/jenna-buzzacco

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