Toledo faces a number of challenges as it seeks to stay competitive with other communities, locally and nationally, in attracting residents. City officials can address one such obstacle quickly and easily if they care to: the lack of a dog park.
The absence of a dedicated city park where dog owners can allow their animals to run free and socialize with other canines is an irritant to two-legged as well as four-legged Toledoans. It encourages irresponsible owners to unleash their dogs in parks that aren’t designed for that purpose, annoying other users.
Toledo is Ohio’s largest city without a public, off-the-leash dog park. Wood County has a dog park in Bowling Green, albeit with limited access and user fees. Danbury Township in Ottawa County operates a dog park.
Cincinnati, a city not much larger than Toledo, has three such parks; two more are planned. A parks official in that city told Blade staff writer Alexandra Mester that the no-charge dog parks are well used and are considered “a basic need.”
A nonprofit group called Toledo Unleashed is soliciting $75,000 in contributions for its long-sought dog park, for which users would be charged an annual membership fee. It has a five-year lease with the city for more than four acres on the site of the former South Toledo YMCA branch. The group has raised about $3,000.
Similarly, Metroparks of the Toledo Area is accepting donations for a proposed no-charge dog park within its new Middlegrounds park in downtown Toledo, which is scheduled to open next year. Both efforts are admirable.
But creation of a dog park in Toledo shouldn’t rely solely on private largess. A free-of-charge dog park is not a luxury; it’s an amenity Toledo needs, both to preserve its quality of life for current residents and to provide a service that would-be residents have come to expect.
A dog park should be part of the city’s long-underfunded budget for public parks and recreation. As on so many other issues, this one will require city government to set long-term priorities for spending and taxing, instead of reacting ad hoc when budget problems arise.
Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins talks frequently about the rather small, but still important, things the city can do to enhance its appeal and economic competitiveness. A dog park is one of these things. Let’s get it done.