On several occasions the Duluth dog parks have been brought up in election campaign stories and radio programs. The messages often portray the dog parks in a negative light and are not always fully truthful. Each time I am aware of these public opinions I contact the individual to let them know the truth about dog parks and try to educate them. I point out how they are important to the humans who use them, more than the dogs. I tell them that the dog parks are built through volunteer efforts and fund raising and that dog parks don't take anything away from kids or other important city functions. In spite of the huge support and success of our dog parks, there are still a great many people in Duluth who don't understand the truth about dog parks.
During the next few months there will be many opportunities to hear from, meet with and see candidates for city council and mayor positions, people in the media, current administration, councilors and other influential people, not only in Duluth but also the nearby towns who would also love to have their own dog parks. Make a point to let them know how you, as a taxpayer, value dog parks. Let them know the truth about how our two dog parks have been funded. Let them know what the dog parks mean to you, the taxpayer.
As an example, what follows is part of an email I sent out this morning.
The Duluth dog parks have not been paid for out of city or parks general funds. They were paid for by dog park supporters raising funds. Dog park volunteers put in hundreds of hours of labor to plan, approve, get estimates, supervise the work, pay the bills, clear the park, repair the fence, etc. Yes, they are free. Just as free as the rinks and courts and fields and playgrounds and trails and other park amenities in Duluth parks. It is even more important that our dog parks are free since we have to raise the funds to build them, unlike most of the other amenities in Duluth city parks that are paid for by the city, in whole or with a match.
Dog parks are more about the people than the dogs. The dogs don't drive and walk there alone, of course. They are being brought there by humans. And it is the humans who so value our two dog parks. The humans are Duluth tax paying residents, people from nearby towns who come to Duluth regularly to use the dog parks (and often spend money in Duluth businesses while here) and tourists who travel through the area with their four legged family members and are grateful to let their dogs run off leash. Humans age 9 through seniors, of all income levels, physical ability and cultural background use the dog parks year round. Many live in apartments or have no fenced back yard. One can't go as often as she would like because she "can't afford gas until Friday." Some have been missed for a while and when asked have said they were having more problems with their depression and couldn't get out of the house. One had to change preferred park location because they saw someone they have a restraining order against near the other one. Some have found relief from their anxiety illness by going to the dog parks. The dog parks have allowed neighbors to meet, people are making friends and relationships that continue outside of the dog park. People are dog and house sitting for each other, sharing dog and personal advice. It has become a real community in a digital and transient time where many people lack real human contact. We are a like minded group who enjoy spending our recreation time in this Outdoor City in the dog parks, watching our dogs socialize and exercise which makes them better pets and less likely to have behavior problems.
Duluth has countless playgrounds, fields,courts,rinks and other amenities on City and school property. There is programming through parks and rec, schools, library and other non profits. The dog parks take nothing from the kids. Duluth has ample park space for kids AND dog parks.
Many other cities and counties in MN and throughout the US actually provide dog parks and support them financially and in getting them approved and built. They recognize the value to their residents and visitors. They are low cost compared to most other park amenities, have low maintenance and can use land that is not suitable for other organized recreation space.
If you have any questions or comments, or would like to discuss this further, please feel free to contact me.
Thank you, Denette Lynch
This is just one example and is much longer and more detailed than is needed. Anything you say, write and communicate can help educate people about the dog parks. Please take any opportunity to help support the dog parks by letting people know what they mean to you.