CLEARWATER — The city's dog lovers will soon have a second option for taking their pooches to a park.
The new Enterprise Dog Park, under construction south of Enterprise Road and just east of U.S. 19, will be finished before the end of the year, said Leroy Chin, the Clearwater park, planning and project manager in charge of the project.
If the weather cooperates, it could open sometime in November, he said.
The park will offer an unusual amenity: looped trails where unleashed dogs and their owners can stretch their legs or rest on benches with a view of nature.
It's quite a contrast to the other park, Doggie Days Dog Park in Crest Lake Park on Glenwood Avenue, which has large expanses of grass and even a dog topiary at the entrance.
"The site is much more rustic than Crest Lake Park," Chin said. "We're going to leave it very natural."
The park is part of a 20-acre tract that was mostly undisturbed before construction started. The city land is nearly two-thirds wetlands, with woods and saw palmettos on the 7.5 acres of uplands.
The city removed trees to build the parking lot, but Chin said most of those were nonnative species like Brazilian pepper, and others were diseased. He said the city will replant some trees there.
The dog park will be completed in two phases. The 5-acre first phase nearing completion will have an enclosure with agility equipment and a second enclosure with a short looped trail. Half of the $400,000 cost will come from state grants and the other half from city impact fees.
The second phase will add 3 more acres and a longer looped trail on the south side of the park. Some of the work needed on those acres, such as clearing paths, will be completed during the first phase. The city has not determined the cost or timing for completing the second phase.
City officials say the dog park was included in the city parks and recreation master plan developed in 2002 as a result of citywide public interest. The City Council approved the park unanimously in 2007.
"Having seen how valuable they are, it was an easy vote for me to go ahead and vote for the new park," said City Council member John Doran, who visits Crest Lake Park with his Labradoodle, Cloe, 4, every Saturday and Sunday.
"It's really important for dogs to know how to be around other dogs. The best place to learn that is at the dog parks," he said.
Doran said he enjoys watching the social groups that develop. "It's a fascinating study in people and dog society," he said.
Some residents drive 10 miles or more to be there.
"A lot of people are excited to have a dog park in their own neighborhood," Doran said. "This should be perfect for big dogs."
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When it opens, Enterprise Dog Park will have parking for 35 cars, with five paved spaces and the rest on grass.
A covered picnic area with two tables, a water fountain for dogs and one for people, and a hose for washing off dogs will be near the lot. And after it rains, dogs can splash through an otherwise dry retention pond south of the lot.
The park will have two fenced areas for now: an agility course with exercise equipment and a larger enclosure with a trail through the woods. Big and small dogs will be together and both enclosures will have fountains, doggie bags and trash receptacles.
The city Parks and Recreation Department developed a conceptual plan for the park, then Deuel & Associates Civil Engineers of Clearwater prepared construction drawings. Several contractors are involved with the project, including Keystone Excavators of Oldsmar, B. R. W. Contracting of Land O'Lakes and Oakhurst Construction Co. of Seminole.
The acre-plus exercise area with agility equipment like ramps and hurdles will be on the northeast corner of the property. The undulating site with a small ravine will be covered partly in mulch and partly in grass, and landscape will be planted on the edge of Enterprise Road.
The second enclosure will have the looped trail paved with crushed oyster shells.
The trail will be 8 feet wide, handicapped accessible, and about a third of a mile in length, starting and ending in the parking lot. The second phase will add more trail length, but not as much as the city had originally hoped to build. Wetlands prevented building a trail around the circumference of the 20 acres.
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On a tour of the park last week, Chin pointed out a cypress tree near a 70-foot bridge where the trail starts. He thinks a bobcat may have sharpened its claws in the roughed-up bark.
"There's a lot of wildlife in here," Chin said. "An alligator has taken up residence in the south side of the park."
The trail will go near those wetlands when the second phase is completed, but access will be fenced off so unwary canines won't run into a predator. A cypress dome wetland south of the parking lot also will be fenced off.
Last week, trees along the trail included longleaf pine, oak, cypress, sweet bay and Southern magnolia. There also were hollies and saw palmettos.
Much of the saw palmetto was starting to grow back after the city knocked it down. Chin said it had been overgrown from lack of burning.
An assortment of butterflies lit on plants, looking for lunch. And on the trail, there was evidence of another animal visitor in a soft layer of mud.
A dog or possibly the area's wild dog, the coyote, had left a track.
Theresa Blackwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.