Cedar Lee parking deck could host a dog park

As the United States becomes increasingly urbanized, the need for public space also increases, and, as people have moved towards denser urban centers, their canine companions have come along. According to a Humane Society report, 60 percent of households have at least one dog, and 15 percent have three or more. Dog parks are a community need. 

The first "official" dog park opened in Berkeley, Calif., in 1970. Since then, the number of "bark parks" has risen steadily, with the number of off-leash dog parks having increased 20 percent in the past five years.

Penn State researchers point to the relative smallness of urban yards as a reason to provide public dog parks, where dogs can get regular exercise. Running off-leash helps dogs—and their owners and neighbors—to sleep easier at night. It also promotes socialization with other dogs and humans, which leads to friendlier, less aggressive animals.

A 2015 study found that, at dog parks, pets serve as avatars, allowing their owners to meet people and navigate space through their dogs. Dog parks also provide a place for owners to get information about local veterinarians, groomers and pet stores, as well as referrals to housing and employment, and people who patronize dog parks are sometimes asked by their local governments to help address issues such as park maintenance and pet overpopulation.

Increasingly, urban apartment communities are using dog parks to lure potential residents, and they sometimes put these amenities on the roof. Cleveland Heights stands to benefit from the addition of a dog park, and it could possibly be on a rooftop.

Viking Planners, a group of students from Cleveland State University's Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, recently presented its findings and recommendations from a market study of the Cedar Lee commercial district. Among those findings was that Cleveland Heights would benefit from changes to its existing parking arrangements and an increase in public space. 

With this in mind, if the city were to renovate the Cedar Lee parking garage to create a rooftop dog park on the little-used top level, it could, as an added benefit, even lead to an increase in parking revenue. Though a recent study on dog parks in Virginia found that most people who used the parks lived nearby, more than a quarter of park users drove in from other neighborhoods and cities to use the parks.

According to DogsInTheCLE.com, the closest dog parks to Cleveland Heights are found in South Euclid, parts of Cleveland, Kirtland and Eastlake. Counter-intuitively, the number of dog parks increases with distance from the region’s urban core, but don’t urban areas need dog parks, too? Surely people around the Heights would patronize an off-leash dog park. Cleveland Heights will soon have the Boss Dog Brewery. The parking deck out back could host a complementary business that would benefit the community.

More information on the Cedar Lee market study can be found at www.futureheights.org.

Chris Hanson

Chris Hanson is coordinator of GrowingHeights (www.growingheights.com), holds a B.A. in urban studies, and is pursuing his M.B.A. He serves in the Ohio Army National Guard. 

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Volume 9, Issue 9, Posted 11:03 AM, 09.01.2016