99 Riverside Drive
NAPLES — Since Rugby was a puppy, the City of Naples has been working on building a place for the miniature Australian Labradoodle to play.
Luckily for Joe Sfara, Rugby’s owner and longtime Naples resident, the Naples Dog Park unlocked its fences and opened up to the public just after Rugby’s first birthday. The ribbon cutting ceremony was held on Wednesday morning at the park, which is located at 99 Riverside Drive.
“I live on Central Avenue, so I will be here a lot, “ Sfara said. “(Rugby’s) wearing me out. So this will be an opportunity for him to get his exercise while I watch.”
With nearly 100 dogs in attendance, City of Naples Mayor Bill Barnett was joined by significant donors to the endeavor to cut the yellow ribbon marking the entrance to the new park.
“(The park) is going to mean a lot to the citizens of Naples who are dog lovers,” Barnett said. “(The ones) who had to go 13 miles, or whatever to the other dog park, I think it’s just going to get better and better.”
The park has an off-leash area for larger dogs, called Bailey Tobin’s Big Dog Run, and an off-leash area for smaller dogs, called Dolce Sherman’s Small Dog Playground. Both playgrounds, named for the dogs of people who made significant contributions to the park, are connected in the center by a shaded structure, which is complete with drinking fountains and benches for owners to relax.
“I think it’s going to set the example for other dog parks,” Barnett said.
According to Matthew Kragh, the Naples-based architect who designed the park, the park has features other dog parks do not have, including wash stations, drinking fountains, large play areas and shaded areas with hammocks.
“It’s not over yet.” Kragh said, adding he hopes add more shaded areas and a large statue installed at the entrance to the park.
Construction for the park cost $250,000 and it was fully met through private donors. The remaining $15,000, which Kragh explained was left after construction of the park, will be put towards the maintenance for the first year.
As a result of all of the costs being met, a yearly membership will not be required for guests, as it was once anticipated. The park does, however, require a registration of the pet. An application can be found on the website, www.mhkap.com/NaplesDogPark/. Applications can also be picked up at the Community Services Administration Office, Fleischmann Park Community Center, River Park Community Center and at the Norris Community Center. Cynthia Sherman, a Naples resident and donor to the park, said the city was lacking a place for dogs.
“I think it’s so important for dogs to socialize and to be able to run off-leash and to have this well maintained area with people who will volunteer to keep it well maintained,” said Sherman. Her Coton de Tulear, Dolce, is the name and face at the entrance to the small dog park.
More than a place for dogs and owners alike to socialize, the park could mean a place for dogs-in-need to find a home to John Browning.
Browning volunteers for the Collier County Domestic Animal Services and brings a dog needing to be adopted downtown three times a week for a walk.
“Hopefully I can get the dog adopted, or (the owners at the park) can tell somebody about us,” he said. “I think people will see how much fun dogs are, and if they see the dogs are good, maybe (the owners) will think of rescuing a dog.”
A Labrador retriever named Betty, who was perfectly sporting a yellow and orange “adopt me” vest, was the first one to get out of the kennel and let loose at the off-leash dog park.
There are three other dog parks in the area: Rover Run at Veterans Community Park in North Naples, Canine Cove at Mackle Park on Marco Island and the Estero Community Center Dog Park.
The Naples Dog Park, nicknamed Central Bark, will be open, like the city’s other parks, from dawn to dusk every day.