Are dog parks exclusionary? “That’s insane to me. I have a dog—she deserves only the best—but that’s a LUXURY dog park.”


The New Albany Dog Park is located adjacent to the Cannon Acres Sports Complex on the city’s western edge. It cost $375,000 in two phases of construction from 2014-2016. There is no easily available information about upkeep and maintenance costs. It is likely these are part of the overall parks department budget, which had risen to $2,100,000 in 2016 from less than $600,000 during the final years of the combined city-county parks department.

The dog park generated considerable controversy when “phase two” work began in the spring of 2016. Native American activist Tony Nava made the case that the property slated for the dog park included archaeological sites from the mound-building Mississippian civilization. Nava told WHAS-TV:

“People wouldn’t want If we wanted to walk our dogs say at Stonehenge or the Vatican or a church or some place that is special or sacred to other belief or cultures so why are native American citizens second-hand citizens when we were the first people, the first nation here.”

Gahan’s characteristically milquetoast answer came in the form of these comments to WDRB-TV.

“There’s a Frisbee golf course here, as well as a dog park with a water feature. It’s a great place for people to enjoy with their family. Right now the last thing we’d want to do is be disrespectful to anyone.”

At the time of inception there were no substantive public discussions about locating the dog park closer to the city’s population center, although alternatives like the city-owned property by the Greenway parking area at 18th Street were mentioned by downtown dog owners.

This always struck me as strange. Why have it all the way OUT THERE? Maybe there was more to it than we noticed at the time. The right kind of dogs … and the right kind of people?

Are Dog Parks Exclusionary? by Kriston Capps (CityLab)

When it’s completed over the next decade or so, the dog park nestled inside Lincoln Yards, a much-discussed $6 billion mega-development now taking shape on Chicago’s waterfront, could be the toniest pet playground in the nation. With its splash pool and pug-mug video installation—an homage to Millennium Park’s famous Crown Fountain—the only thing SOM’s design for Chicago puppers is missing is an oversized mirrored bone.

Humans living in Lincoln Yards will enjoy amenities as well: Plans call for a sledding hill and recreation fields among its 70-story skyscrapers. But the dogs really have it made.

“Wow, that’s a luxury dog park,” says Anjulie Rao, editor of Chicago Architect. “That’s insane to me. I have a dog—she deserves only the best—but that’s a luxury dog park.” She adds, speaking of the sunny rendering of Lincoln Yards, “My first visual reaction is: That is a lot of white people with dogs.”

Outside Chicago’s North Side, dog parks are much harder to come by. Just one city-sanctioned dog-friendly area can be found across the entire South Side …

Not just that, but:

Park leaders face tremendous pressure to build dog parks, even as building them triggers tremendous conflict. In affluent areas especially, residents increasingly see dog parks as basic civic infrastructure, up there with sidewalks or libraries. Some 97 percent of Raleigh residents who took part in a survey for the 2018 Dog Park Study said that dog parks “build a sense of community.”

But in at least one case, building one community helped erase another one. In October, officials in Norfolk, Virginia, shuttered an establishment called the Hershee Bar as part of a planned revitalization. Activists spent month trying to convince the city to spare the bar, which was Norfolk’s only dedicated space for lesbian, bisexual, and queer women. The city council had voted for the plan without even debating the impact on the LGBTQ community.

Only after the bar closed its doors did owners, staff, and frequenters learn that one potential plan for the site was a dog park. “I love dogs as much as the next person,” one of those activists, Barbara James, told The Washington Post. “But our 35-year history is being torn down in this way where the city is essentially saying we’re less than a dog.”