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WAKE FOREST — While social distancing is closing several amenities in town, one is reopening this week, and it is something people can do while still maintaining space from others.
Flaherty Dog Park opens Friday, March 20, at 8 a.m. following a major renovation project. The dog park, at1100 N. White St., closed in early January.
The dog park opened in 2007 and has been heavily used since then. After about 10 years, there was a lot of wear and tear, according to Wake Forest Director of Parks and Recreation Ruben Wall.
“People really enjoy the dog park quite a bit,” Wall said. “We already knew going in a lot of the issues that we had there because our staff is at the park every day. I visit that park at least once or twice a week. We have a good relationship with the citizens, so they had been telling us over the years what some of the issues were.”
The parks and recreation advisory board held two public meetings and an online survey to solicit public input concerning improvements at Flaherty Dog Park. The project cost around $150,000.
The configuration of the park was the biggest change. The park had an issue with landscaping and grading, according to Wall. Mud sat in high traffic areas and tree roots were exposed.
“People use it seven days a week from dawn to dusk, so wear and tear at the dog park with just grass (was awful),” he said. “With the grading, we had a lot of water running down a very large hill.”
That problem was fixed by removing the hill entirely. That allowed park staff to cover the exposed tree roots without affecting the healthy trees. The whole park was moved toward the lake, where more trees were incorporated. The small-dog park was expanded.
Shade structures — both trees and man-made structures — were installed.
“The shade structures are just amazing if you see those sitting out in the dog park and how nice they look,” Wall said. “Originally, I was thinking of a physical wood shelter, but our staff found something that is very nice.”
The renovation included new fencing and self-closing gates, solving a problem dog owners had with coming and going. Previously, one gate was used for entering and exiting. The setup sometimes caused unleashed dogs to escape into the parking lot.
“When the dogs were entering and exiting, they were interacting with each other in a way that wasn’t always good,” Wall said. “If you had three people coming in and two people coming out, you had five dogs in the same area, causing confusion.”
Now, the entrance is separate from the exit. The double-gated system allows dog owners the opportunity to remove or fasten dog leashes prior to entering or exiting.
Wall and his staff visited several dog parks in the Raleigh area to find out what other dog parks were doing successfully.
Originally, the park was planned to be closed for about a week as the renovations were made. Instead, it was closed for almost two months. Wall said parkgoers were understanding of the extension.
“We were up front about what was going on,” he said. “Our message was that we wanted to do it right and not rush it. We didn’t want to have to do anything again after we opened.”
Working during the winter often causes delays, especially due to rain in an area prone to mud. However, Wall was pleased with how the renovations came together.
“We wanted quality. We wanted it to look nice. We wanted it to function, and we wanted to do it right,” Wall said. “I’ve been impressed with the time and effort (the staff) has been putting in.”
Wall hopes residents realize that parks staff took concerns seriously and listened to people’s needs.
“We’re here to serve them,” he said. “We tried to put in almost everything that the citizens asked for. We tried to stretch that money. I hope they’ll see the little things they asked for and know we listened to them.”
Flaherty Dog Park covers three-acres at Flaherty Park and features two exercise areas, one for small dogs and one for large dogs. It is open from dawn to dusk.