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Monday, Oct. 12, 2015

Dog Park in Works

Pet owners eager for 2016 opening near Stoner Boat Launch

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Pet owners eager for 2016 opening near Stoner Boat Launch

Mamie Farley is dedicated to her dogs.

The Shreveport native and her canine family – Zorro and Touché – were out walking around the Stoner Boat Launch eagerly awaiting the unveiling of the plans for Shreveport’s new public dog park.

Farley held the leashes for both dogs in her non-cast hand. Zorro, a white Husky, and Touché, a rescue beagle-mix, seemed to be in their element as all three stood under a pavilion, looking at plans for Shreveport’s upcoming dog park.

“This is marvelous,” Farley said. “Our city is certainly big enough to support this. There are a lot of dog lovers.”

Last month, Farley and her dogs joined a crowd of people, leashes and dogs to gaze at project drawings. Additions to the five-acre area include a fenced-off area to allow the dogs to run without a leash as well as a dog pond and landscaping.

The Red River Waterway Commission put up $280,000 to fund the project. Another $28,000 was raised by the Shreveport Dog Park Alliance to design the dog park.

“I think people realize this is something Shreveport needs. They have been asking for it,” Cynthia Keith, president of the Shreveport Dog Park Alliance, said. “Pets are part of the family.”

A dog park in Shreveport became a talking point back in 2006. But, due to funding concerns, it never really got off the ground.

“The city has been involved the whole time… But [the city] wanted a public/ private partnership,” Keith said.

And once the Waterway Commission put up funds to help the project along, that partnership was created. Now, after nearly a decade of lobbying, the dog park has a tentative opening date of summer 2016.

It will be a public city park maintained by Shreveport Public Assembly and Recreation. The dog park will be located on Clyde Fant Parkway at Stoner Avenue, just two miles south of downtown on the riverfront.

Keith said the park will also have a walking trail and picnic area.

Because, as she said, “Parks are also for people.”

For Farley, the park’s benefits are many. “This is a place to come even if you are disabled,” she said.

The park’s ease of access is important for Farley. Her broken her arm is due to tripping over a curb while walking her dogs.

“Obviously, I’m a dog lover. I’m out walking my dogs with a broken arm and an IV in the other,” said Farley, adding she can avoid curbs and broken sidewalks at the Stoner park.

Because of the safety, Farley was one of the Shreveport residents anxiously waiting for this park to open.

“I was on the phone asking when it was going to happen. What’s going on?” she said.

One benefit of the park both she and Keith touched on is socializing.

“Bring dogs, unleash them and let them have fun with one another,” Farley said.

She was echoed by Bailer Hughes. “Our dogs get to socialize,” Bailer said. Hughes and her dog Dydo, a Dalmatian, were out viewing the plans with Hughes’ mother, Tammy Hughes.

“I think it’s great. I didn’t know the location,” said Tammy, adding that the Stoner Boat Launch is already a favorite location for her pit bull, Mobley.

And Tammy believes it will be popular among dog lovers.

“A lot of people don’t like dogs. But you’re welcome here… I think it will be used. I’ve seen other projects where our tax dollars went to and those were not important.

“Something like this will be useful.” The dog park could also have a big benefit for downtown living, Liz Swaine, executive director of Shreveport’s Downtown Development Authority, said.

“This is going to be such a needed amenity,” Swaine said. “It’s especially exciting due to the proximity to downtown.”

Swaine was not attending the press conference just because of her downtown connection. But, she is also a dog lover who attended the dog park preview with her dog, Starvina. “It looks fabulous,” Sawine said adding it could compete with any dog park.

And while some may be put off at the amount of time it took for the dog park, Swaine said the wait made for a better park.

“The benefit is a better design,” she said.

–RT Morgan

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