By VICTORIA HEUER
June 5, 2009
What makes for an ideal dog park? Sure, you want strong fences, shaded areas, drinking water for your dog and for you, good lighting, and parking. But those are just the basics. Almost any old dog park can give you that. Only a select few provide you with a beach, or a swimming pool, or a dinner and dance for you and your dog. These are the features that put U.S. dog parks into “best” territory, with the winner being recognized as "America’s Best Dog Park," an annual voter led survey sponsored by Dog Fancy magazine. (Use PetMD's Finder to locate the best dog parks in your area.)
This year’s winner is the Freedom Bark Park in Lowell, Indiana. Built as a community project, the Freedom Bark Park began as a 5-acre swath of unused land within a former 114-acre wide farm tract that had been designated for parkland. With no other dog friendly parks available for the community, the idea of building a park solely for dog lovers and their dogs quickly drew community-wide support, and in the space of two years, a small band of committed volunteers, along with their supporters, was able to put together a recreational area that is not only fun, but is run on "green" energy.
Freedom Bark Park’s green features include a solar water well, biodegradable waste bags, recycled rubber mulch, and park benches made from oak trees that had been salvaged after severe storms. Amongst the fun activities created especially for visiting canines are concrete culverts covered in wisteria vines, and sand bunker for digging.
With donations from equipment and supply businesses -- the culverts were donated by a local concrete company -- fundraisers to pay for paint and landscaping, and the dogged work of organizers and members of the community, including school children, the non-taxpayer funded park opened in October 2008, quickly becoming a popular fixture of the community of Lowell. The Freedom Bark Park is also known as Mary Hylek Small Dog Park, in deference to the Hylek family, who made a financial contribution in honor of their mother.
The park is located at 17105 Cline Avenue, in Lowell, IN.
Dog Fancy magazine readers have an obvious soft-spot for "green" parks. Last year’s winner was the Jackass Acres K-9 Corral, in New River, AZ, which has been noted for being the "greenest" dog park in the U.S.