No doubt about it. Kingwood residents love their dogs, and the universal question is, “Why doesn’t Kingwood have a dog park?”
That question was posted on the neighborhood social website Nextdoor recently by a new Kingwood resident and dog lover. The response was, well, overwhelming. Post after post, like-minded Kingwood dog lovers were enthusiastic. Kingwood needs a dog park.
Kingwood came close to securing a dog park in 2017 when community activist Robert Rehak, and Dee Price, president of Kingwood Service Association (KSA), formed a committee to investigate a dog park in Kingwood.
Rehak and Price reviewed numerous locations and were about to recommend River Grove Park.
“We pursued installing a dog park in River Grove Park but were unable to do so because River Grove Park is in the floodway and flooded numerous times in 2017 through 2019,” Price recalled.
River Grove Park is a 74-acre park operated by KSA and located at the south end of Woodland Hills Drive. The park flooded just before Hurricane Harvey, during Harvey and six times in a two-month period after Harvey “…because of the way the river was blocked just downstream,” explained Rehak.
“After the Army Corps of Engineers removed ‘Sand Island,’ the flooding stopped but we were still concerned about it. Hence, the interest in higher ground,” Rehak said.
Rehak, Price and the dog park committee were interested in creating a dog park near the Forest Cove Townhomes, but residents there were against it.
“We put our plans on hold until the flood issues could be addressed,” said Rehak.
The plans that Rehak and Price refer to are a comprehensive and well-thought out “KSA Dog Park Proposal” developed by Rehak, Price, John Menna, and several others from the KSA parks committee, presented to KSA on April 5, 2018.
The dog park was requested by Kingwood residents in 2017 in response to the closing of a semi-private dog park on Russell Palmer Road, according to the proposal which pointed out that the dog park was the most requested amenity requested by Kingwood residents, according to the City of Houston parks director.
The proposal pointed out that 40 percent of American families own dogs and, most dramatically, The Woodlands has five dog parks.
Rehak, Price and the committee investigated pros, cons, locations, costs, layouts, rules, fencing options and dog parks in other communities, ultimately deciding to pursue a dog park at River Grove Park.
In the proposal, the committee responded to a variety of concerns including aggressive dogs, the cost, flooding, rules, whether the park would be unsightly – and, in the committee’s words, what to do about all the poop.
The committee projected a total cost of $86,350 for construction, purchase of six dog waste stations and eight benches and a 20 percent contingency. Annual maintenance cost, the committee estimated, was $19,500 for dog waste removal, ground maintenance and supplies.
The proposal detailed sample dog waste stations, bench specifications, two pages worth of rules and even gave specific instructions about how to lay out the park, “…locate features so that no trees larger than four feet need to be cut. In other words, work around major trees,” the report intoned.
Rehak and Price are still interested in the Forest Cover location, the area where Edgewater Park is being developed.
“That’s where the Houston Parks board plans to put parking for their new hike and bike trail,” Rehak said, “but complicating all of this is what the Harris County Flood Control District plans to do with the Kingwood diversion ditch. That could be a game changer for everything.”
The director of Precinct 4’s parks is supportive of a dog park at Edgewater Park, a 19-acre park about to go under construction just east of Hwy. 59 next to the San Jacinto West Fork.
“Let me be clear, though, a dog park would be a long way off,” admitted Dennis Johnston, parks director for Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle. “We’re just getting ready to bid phase 1 which includes a parking lot, boat launch, waterlines, restroom and detention pond.”
Johnston points out that building a dog park at Edgewater Park now would put it in the middle of nowhere.
“We must have the infrastructure in place,” he says. “We’ve got to finish phase 1 first. Phase 2 would be the dog park.”
Johnston knows all about dog parks. He has built three in Precinct 4, including the closest to Kingwood, which is the Meyer Dog Park along Cypresswood Drive in Spring. Smaller dog parks also are included in many of the precinct’s parks.
“The dog park we build in Edgewater could be like our dog park in Pundt Park along Spring Creek in Spring,” Johnston says. “The Pundt dog park is very nice.”
“Once phase 1 is completed, I’ll pretty much be out of money so a phase 2 would require another bond referendum,” Johnston said.
Lake Houston has two public dog parks. Most residents are familiar with the dog park at Deussen Park, located east of Lake Houston Parkway on Deussen Parkway. Precinct 1 recently opened Atascocita Park which includes two dog parks, one for large breeds and another for small breeds. Atascocita Park is located just south of Rosewood Funeral Home off West Lake Houston Parkway.
There is a sliver of hope for a dog park in Kingwood.
KSA has been talking to Humble ISD about the possibility of acquiring the property adjacent to Deer Ridge Park, the location of the current Kingwood Ag Barn, after the new Ag Barn is opened and Humble ISD no longer needs the property, according to Price and Rehak.
“The Ag Barn area still floods, but it doesn’t flood as badly,” admitted Rehak.
“We would love to see the property continue to be a community asset that enhances residents’ quality of life,” Robert Sitton, school board president and chair of the board’s Building and Planning Committee. “There are legal processes that the district must follow as we move forward.”
Jamie Mount, chief communications officer for Humble ISD, outlined the steps required by law. “The property has deed restrictions. At this time, it can be only used for an agricultural, science, nature, or wildlife teaching facility, or for educational or recreational use. A dog park fits within those restrictions,” Mount said.
“By state law, a number of steps must occur to allow Humble ISD to relinquish use of the property. This includes a vote by the school board to authorize the administration to sell the property, notices published in the newspaper to seek sealed bids and a determination of fair market value.” She said, “Additionally, the district is working closely with FEMA regarding this site as the Ag Barn was one of the district facilities impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The property cannot be made available for sale yet because students are continuing to use the Kingwood Ag Barn this school year.”
Dog parks: the good and the bad
— Experts give conflicting advice —
Kingwood residents may want a dog park to call their own, but dog experts don’t necessarily think they are a good idea.
The Tribune noticed the number of responses to a recent post on Nextdoor, a social networking website, from a new Kingwood resident asking why there is no dog park in Kingwood.
The overwhelming response to the post was enthusiastic. Why doesn’t Kingwood have a dog park?
Dog experts, however, have strong opinions about putting dog parks in neighborhoods. In fact, some are downright negative about dog parks.
First, the positives.
Dog parks are a great way for dogs to socialize with other dogs and, for that matter, for dog lovers to socialize with other dog lovers, says the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.
This group prides itself in educating people about the proper management of pet dogs. They have put together a compilation of the advantages, disadvantages and things to think about for communities to consider when they develop a dog park.
Besides allowing both dogs and dog lovers to socialize, the association says dog parks “…allow dogs to get adequate physical and mental exercise, thereby lessening destructive and annoying behaviors in general which benefit society as a whole.”
Dog parks are a good opportunity for owners to learn about dogs and to learn from more experienced owners, the group says, and the parks lessen the chance of owners letting their dogs off leash in other areas where they should not, like Kingwood’s greenbelts.
Even WebMD, the online website that normally focuses on human health and wellbeing, has a section for dog lovers and their dogs, too, quoting a clinical associate professor from Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
“For some dogs, running off leash and romping with their canine pals is a real treat,” the professor said.
“In general, dog parks are safe, but you need to watch your dogs at the park just as you would watch your children on the playground,” the author wrote.
That leads to the negatives about dog parks.
Danger from aggressive dogs, danger of physical injury from dog-related hazards, lawsuits arising from dog fights and potential for parasites are the disadvantages for dog lovers, according to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.
And the disadvantages of dog parks for dogs? The Professional Dog Trainers list quite a few. Danger from aggressive dogs. Potential for parasites and disease. Lack of impulse control and over-excitement. Potential for injury. Not appropriate for small and large dogs at the same time.
WebMD has lots of advice.
“Understand that dog parks are meant for pets that are well socialized,” the Kansas State professor wrote. “The dog park is not the place to teach him to make friends or share his toys. Work with a trainer first to correct their behavior.”
The Kansas State professor has more dog park advice. Do not take shy or nervous dogs to the park. They may bite. Steer clear of the park if your female pet is in heat. “Nothing starts a dog fight faster than a group of male dogs vying for the attention of a ready-to-breed female,” he said.
Dog parks can be particularly dangerous for puppies, the professor said, “…because their young immune systems will struggle to fight common infections.”
One dog advocacy group, Allegiant K9s, a dog training company based in North Carolina, stated bluntly, “While the allure of dog parks is strong, they are actually a very bad idea.”
The website author states that dog parks can be a great outlet but pose so many risks – dog fights and disease are just two. The author also says many owners have dogs with “dog issues,” hoping to rehabilitate or socialize their dog.
Parks can be stressful for dogs, too, because there is so much going on. Other negatives include humans not paying attention to their dogs and dogs learning bad behavior from other dogs.
Hire a good trainer, the Allegiant K9 website suggests, and investigate a quality dog daycare. Trainers teach dogs solid, safe, and reliable off leash obedience, and doggie day cares have a trained staff supervising the dogs 100 percent of the time.
Ending on a positive note, the Association of Professional Dog Trainers has a list of suggestions to make dog parks safe. These include having the dog parks monitored by a core group of supporters, designing the park to separate big dogs from the little ones and providing gathering spots for humans.
Finally, the association recommends a posted set of rules – and enforcing them.