Downtown Tampa went from virtually dog-unfriendly to dog-loving with the opening of the dog run at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. For the first time, pet owners there can let their dogs run free in an area built just for them. The fenced dog park, at 600 N Ashley Drive behind the new Tampa Museum of Art, has climbing toys, a doggy water fountain and dig-proof turf. Surprisingly, it doesn't have poop bags, so bring your own. The park is kind of small for big breeds, and small dogs should exercise caution because there are no separate areas for large and small dogs. Last week, a small dog was killed there by a large dog. For pet owners who prefer leashes, here's a roundup of some other downtown green spaces. — Susan Thurston [email protected]
Herman Massey Park: This pocket park is a quick option for residents of the nearby Element apartments, which bans dogs from peeing or pooping in their bushes. It's small but shaded. Stay clear of the rose bushes, lovingly maintained by the Tampa Rose Society. 1002 N Franklin St.
Lykes Gaslight Park: Tampa's version of Central Park, it comes to life at lunchtime when workers venture out for some fresh air and a bite to eat. The park has plenty of open space to sniff and lift a leg. But don't even think about taking your dog off its leash. The city block park is surrounded by four busy streets. 410 N Franklin St.
MacDill Park on the Riverwalk: Grass, benches and poop bags for the forgetful. What more does man and his best friend need? This 3⁄4-acre nugget of the Riverwalk honors the military's contributions to the community. The huge red sculpture titled Big Max, on loan by artist John Henry, is worth a look. 100 N Ashley Drive.
USF Park: Leave it to a park dedicated to Tampa's largest university to educate pet owners with a sign reminding people "pet waste is not fertilizer." This riverfront park has two stations for discarding dog waste. The park is the northernmost starting point for the largest stretch of the Riverwalk. From here, you can walk all the way to the Florida Aquarium, a stroll bound to tire out any four-legged friend. 233 S Ashley Drive.
Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park: After Curtis Hixon, this is the largest downtown park, with its children's playground, meandering sidewalks and scenic waterfront views. The huge lawn seems perfect for playing fetch so long as no one else is around — or patrolling. 601 Old Water St.
Sail Pavilion: After a walk, take a pit stop at this new waterfront bar next to the Tampa Convention Center. The chairs and tables outside the pavilion are dog-friendly. 333 S Franklin St.
Meridian Street: Not an official park, this green stretch along Meridian nonetheless gets a lot of use by dog owners living in the Channel District. The wide sidewalks, benches and trash bins give the space a park-like feel. Walk to Channelside Drive and you can connect to the Riverwalk.