Off-leash park an oasis for dog owners
Bouncing through the trees at Dakota Woods Dog Park, the sun beams off of Lucy's golden fur. Lucy and her owner, Deborah Lindberg, are regulars at the off-leash dog park in Empire Township, and on a warm Monday morning the two are out for a stroll.
Lucy and Lindberg travel to the park from West St. Paul several times a week. Lindberg said she likes the size of the park and the walking trails through it.
Dakota County Manager of Park Operations Beth Landahl said the popular 16-acre dog park draws people from all over the county throughout the year. In 2011 the county sold nearly 3,000 daily passes to the park and 745 annual passes.
"It's a really popular place," Landahl said.
The park features an open area for play and a winding trail through a wooded area.
"Having the trails promotes health for people and dogs," said Landahl.
The county requires a permit to use the park. Landahl said they charge to help keep the park maintained. The park offers baggies to clean up dog messes.
Annual pass owner Randy Sink said he actually likes that the county charges for use of the park.
"I think people take better care of it because of (the charge)," said Sink.
Rob Donahue, another annual pass owner, agreed. He said people seemed to take more ownership and pride than at free dog parks.
"All the dogs that come here are really friendly," said Donahue.
The atmosphere at the dog park is friendly. People greet each other on the trails and dogs do too in their own way. Landahl said the dog park gets a lot of repeat users who over time have gotten to know one another.
"They know each other and they know each other's dogs," said Landahl.
For the safety of the dogs and humans the park has some rules. The park has a two dog per handler limit. Animals must be kept under direct control of their handler at all times. Food and dogs toys are not allowed to prevent fighting.
Before entering the park, dogs should be on a leash. All pet waste should be cleaned up.
Dogs should be over 4 months old and no dogs in heat are allowed. Animal cruelty is prohibited and should be reported if witnessed.
Generally, Landahl said, people and dogs follow the rules, making it a fun place for both.
"It's always a busy place," said Landahl.
Park users should bring water for their pets. Watering stations are available throughout the 16 acres. There are also places for people to rest, including benches and picnic tables. A portable toilet sits in the parking lot.
Check it out
For more information on the park or to purchase an annual pass visit the Dakota County website at www.co.dakota.mn.us and search Dakota Woods Dog Park. There is a pay box in the parking lot of the dog park for those who just want a daily pass.
The park is located off of County Road 46 on Blaine Avenue.