Wichita’s newest dog park will offer agility area, interactive features and fountains

Katelyn Fraley takes her four dogs to the Meridian Dog Park Monday afternoon. (July 16, 2018)
Katelyn Fraley takes her four dogs to the Meridian Dog Park Monday afternoon. (July 16, 2018) The Wichita Eagle

Wichita’s dogs are getting a new park to run around in.

The proposed dog park in W.B. Harrison Park, 1300 S. Webb, will be constructed within the year, Troy Houtman, director of Park and Recreation, said.

The dog park will be located in the east corner of the park near the rugby field and include a large dog area, a small dog area, an agility park and a renovated parking lot.

“There will be areas to wash the dogs and some really fun amenities for the dogs to play with, like hoops to jump through and an obstacle course,” Houtman said.

A conceptual design map depicts a large dog area and a small dog area with features such as shade structures, areas for open play, benches, tables, hillside fetch and fountains. The agility area includes a teeter totter, weaving posts, hurdles, crawl tube, a ramp and climb, and more.

Construction will be completed in the winter or early spring, Houtman said. The park is near Webb and Harry.

A city of Wichita’s size should have 10-12 dog parks, according to the Board of Park Commissioners meeting minutes from 2016. Wichita currently has three: Chapin Park, 2400 E. MacArthur Road, had the city’s first dog park; followed by K-9 Rooster Park at Meridian Park, 2127 N. Meridian, and then the dog park behind the Murfin Animal Care Campus, 3313 N. Hillside.

Community-focused partners

The park is a collaboration between the city, WDM Architects and Together Wichita, a nonprofit made up of businesses, including The Wichita Eagle, that organize and fund projects within the city.

“Our goal really is to take on projects that have a lasting impact on our community,” said Tessa Brungardt, Together Wichita project coordinator.

The city has always heard from vets or other dog organizations how much a really nice dog park is needed in Wichita, Brungardt said.

“That’s why when we came up with the idea and the city backed it up so much,” Brungardt said. “It’ll be fulfilling a huge need.”

Together Wichita was interested in a dog park because pet-friendly parks are important to attracting and retaining young professionals to our city, Susan Armstrong, Together Wichita partner, said in a statement.

“The Knight Foundation found that young talent is perceived to be one of the least welcomed groups in Wichita,” Armstrong wrote. “The Chung Report suggests that, to attract them, we need to make our city more livable. We need more public spaces where people can gather and engage. Dog parks fit into this category—so we felt we should find a way to build a world class dog park in our city.”

Houtman said the Park Board is funding the parking lot, which should be finished sometime this winter. The Board is scheduled to go to City Council for the final piece of funding for the parking lot in August. After that, they simply have to execute the plan for the dog park.

According to the March 23, 2018 Board of Park Commissioners Retreat Meeting minutes, Together Wichita needed about $200,000 for fencing, dog amenities, a waterline and a wash rack.

The city estimates costs for the parking lot at $225,000 to $250,000.

Together Wichita’s task was getting funding into place.

Since the inception of Together Wichita in 2014, businesses have contributed to the project fund, Brungardt said. That means every company who has ever been a partner or has contributed to the fund has helped with this project.

“We’re covering the water line, fencing, pouring concrete, sidewalks and those sort of things, and all that comes from our project funds,” Brungardt said.

The Association of General Contractors’ Construction Leadership Council took on the project as a community service project, Brungardt said.

“They’ve been coordinating with subcontractors and will do some of those things that (Together Wichita) didn’t have the capability to do,” Brungardt said. “They have really stepped in and took up the construction part in getting us ready to go.”

Demand for off-leash areas

A 2016 plan update for the Wichita Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan stated that increased pet ownership has led to strong demand for off-leash dog areas, including larger dog parks, off-leash dog trails and smaller dog runs.

Ericka Goering, Kansas Humane Society director of marketing and communications, said making sure that your pet gets regular exercise is important because it helps with behavioral issues.

“It helps out with the mind and body and makes pets behave better in the home—especially puppies,” Goering said. “Dog parks help form good relationships between your pet and other animals, as well as with other people. Animals are very social, just like people.”

Dog parks also are good for people, Goering said, because pet owners can meet other people with the same passion.

The dog park project will be a public-private partnership with an end result neither could have accomplished alone, Armstrong said in the statement.

“We’re excited about it because the dog parks we have now are mediocre, at best,” Armstrong said in the statement. “They offer the bare minimum of amenities. They lack shade and they are void of the features that encourage interaction between dogs and their owners.”

Brungardt said once the park is built, Together Wichita is going to ask if there are local businesses who want to sponsor some activity structures within the park or offer ideas for the structures.

Various pet stores and veterinarians are helping out with the park.

“We couldn’t do it without nonprofits who have interests in projects like this,” Houtman said.