Hueston Woods’ New Dog Park

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New Dog Park Has Pets' Tails Wagging | Pete Conrad, Oxford Press

COLLEGE CORNER — There is a park within a park at Hueston Woods State Park.

It has been open for less than a year and according to Naturalist Supervisor Chad Smith, “It’s super popular.”

With dogs.

OK, people too.

Last Friday afternoon a storage shed was decorated with signs, painted and cut in the shape of dog bones, officially proclaiming the site of the Hueston Woods Dog Park.

The park is three grassy, well-shaded acres of pure canine heaven.

Once a visiting dog slips its leash, it’s off to the races. And if there are other dogs nearby, it becomes a wild, rollicking scramble of pure freedom and fun.

The Dog Park had been a deer pen until March of 2011, when it was visited by a dark, deadly mystery which still hasn’t been solved.

“All five of the captive deer died during the course of a week and it was due to poisoning,” Smith said.

Testing performed by the Department of Agriculture was inconclusive.

“We couldn’t tell if the poisoning was intentional or unintentional,” Smith said.

One reaction might have been to quietly remove the fencing and allow the three acres to revert back into part of the forest.

That was not Smith’s reaction.

“It was a lemonade out of lemons situation,” he said.

Transforming the deer pen into a dog park, Smith said, “seemed like a logical fit. It’s big enough. That’s its big advantage. It’s got shade and it’s so large. ... We had existing facilities. We had water, we’re in close proximity to (electricity), and we had the structure, the barn, already here.

“It cost us almost nothing to open,” he pointed out. “We brought in existing benches from other areas of the park.”

Smith, a 1999 graduate of Talawanda High School who worked one year for the National Park Service at Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Ariz., has been with Ohio State Parks since 2004.

He has experience, and he also had a lot of help in opening the dog park.

“Students from Ohio State who were staying at Miami helped us get the gates open last summer,” Smith said. “By the end of June we were up and running.”

“We’ve had other groups from Miami and members of the park staff come out and help maintain the facilities,” he added.

Two of the most dedicated volunteers have been Libby Birch and Richard Munson, both of Oxford, who hoisted, positioned and drilled the dog bone signs into place.

“It’s fun. I love doing projects like this, community projects,” said Birch, who recently moved to Oxford after having taught in the Middletown School District and Miami University Middletown for close to four decades.

Birch is involved with the upcoming Queen City Bird Festival, which will be held in May at Hueston Woods.

“We’re hoping people will come to that and see the dog park,” Birch said. “It’s great for the dogs and for the socialization. But don’t forget about us humans. It’s a great way to meet people.”

Smith has big plans for the Hueston Woods Dog Park. He visited the dog park at Alum Creek State Park near Delaware to get some ideas.

“We knew they were popular in other communities and other parks,” he said. “We have lots of plans. We don’t want to stop now.”

One plan calls for a drinking fountain for both humans and canines, up high for people, down low for dogs.

“There is a donation box here on site,” Smith said, “or people can donate at the Hueston Woods State Park office.

“We want to get some agility equipment for the dogs at some point,” he added. “There’s a lot of untapped potential. We did well last year, but I think we can do even better.”

Contact this reporter at (513) 523-4139 or Pete.Conrad@coxinc.com.

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