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Pay to Play: How Baton Rouge, New Orleans maintains their dog pa - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Pay to Play: How Baton Rouge, New Orleans maintain their dog parks

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NEW ORLEANS -

The controversy over the Shreveport dog park is not whether to have one, but how it will be maintained after it is built.

Other cities in Louisiana have figured out how to pay for the maintenance.

 "When we first heard it, we thought, 'Boy that sounds strange.' But as we started to study it and went and visited other dog parks we realized they're very good amenities for parks," said Ted Jack.

Jack helped plan East Baton Rouge Parish's first dog park in 2004 with BREC, the parish's recreation and park commission.

With financial help from Raising Canes, the commission was able to build four parks but is now in charge of maintenance of five different dog parks.

"At this one we just mow it, take care of it kind of like a regular park other than there's more litter pick up," said Jack, BREC's  Assistant Superintendent, Planning, Operations and Resources.

Entrances into BREC's dog parks are double gated to prevent dogs from escaping. There are also tubs to splash around in and water fountains; all which could require some maintenance.

"The general maintenance of it is paid for by the operations which are paid for by taxes," Jack said.

The price tag to take care of one of the smaller parks is $6,000, and Jack said the largest park cost tax payers about $18,000 a year.

It's a tax that every property owner pays, but only those with dogs can use.

But Jack said it's worth it.

"Some people say, 'Why do you build a park for a dog?' You really aren't building the park for the dog," he explained. "You're building it for the people. And the people really love them. They come together. The dogs socialize. The people socialize too. They get exercise. They throw balls for the dogs and they have a real good time."

A real good time on the tax payer's dime, but New Orleans came up with a different strategy after Hurricane Katrina.

"A lot of our residents evacuated to other places. One of the things they found in other places was dog parks. They said, 'Why doesn't New Orleans have at least one?'"

Jackie Shreve and other dog lovers got together to come up with a plan and three years later, Nola City Bark opened on a small piece of land inside City Park.

 "We didn't want it just to be a fence with mud or grass or whatever," Shreve said. "We wanted it to be the gold standard of dog parks, and came up with all of these ideas of things that we wanted."

What the group wanted, they pretty much got—a walking path, fountain and dog tubs, and even dog washing stations. It also has an irrigation system that keeps the grass growing, a monthly flee control spray, and restroom facilities.

To make it all possible, the group decided to make it a membership-only park. Each member pays a fee to for a scan card that gets them in the gate.

"Right now it's $43 a year, which we think is a bargain," said Shreve. "We're open seven days a week from 5:30am to 9:30pm. We're able to generate to operate the park successfully through the card."

Shreve said New Orleans' premium pup park costs about $70,000 a year to maintain and run. That includes a full-time employee who takes care of membership.

"There was a bit of a learning curb when we first started because people said I've been elsewhere and there're always free. We said 'yeah, we know but this will be different.'" Shreve said. "I don't think there's a person here that will object to paying that money. They feel like its money well spent."

Shreve said one of the most unexpected benefits of charging a fee for the dog park is to see how well its members take care of the park.

"I think the fee is nominal, but it makes people more responsible. And I think that's a good thing. They're expectations are that someone's not going to come behind them and pick up after their dog."

They take pride in a place for their dogs which are another part of their families. And pet owners want to take care of their families.

"You want to provide the basics, but quality of life is a big issue in cities. And I think this makes it so attractive."

Last month, Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover gave numbers as to why he did not think a dog park near the river would be feasible.

It looks like the numbers he announced, which totaled to $950,000, were all for the initial creation of the park, not the maintenance.

To see a copy of his power point presentation with these numbers, click here.

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