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Dogs can fetch beach time on Davis Islands soon

DAVIS ISLANDS — Prepare for salty wet dogs. Expect wild yelps. The Davis Islands Dog Beach will open early next week, officials say.

The 200 feet of beach has been closed for renovations since June 10, much to the dismay of dog owners, including many who do not live on the islands.

But work has been completed ahead of the scheduled Dec. 1 reopening date. A formal ribbon cutting is planned for next month, when the boat ramp next to the park is complete.

From the start, city officials hoped to finish earlier. The completion date was set for after Thanksgiving, city contract administration director David Vaughn said. But the work was dependent on good weather.

On a recent afternoon, six dogs were at the fenced dog park next to the beach. Their owners were eager to get the dogs some beach time.

Among them was 2-year-old Chester, an award-winning Vizsla, who can hardly wait. Chester hasn't said so in words, said his owner, Jack Thompson, of Davis Islands. But the dog, trained to serve wounded veterans, relishes swimming.

"He's made for the water," said Thompson, turning to Chester. "Go find me a bird."

Chester took off.

Kristina Newmeyer also lives on the islands and used to take 2-year-old Fiona, a rescued basenji mix, for a swim at the park every morning. In the summer, it's a great way for a furry dog to cool off, she said.

But about half of the beach was rocky, and much of the sand had eroded, leaving more rocks, glass and other sharp debris. The acre-and-a-half park sits at the south end of the island past the Peter O. Knight Airport on Severn Avenue.

Work crews cleared away debris, replaced sand, and added offshore artificial reefs and a breakwater. Landscapers installed an irrigation system and native plants.

The work also included dredging and repaving of the nearby boat ramp. Both projects were funded with $273,082 from the Community Investment Tax.

Carolyn Bigley went to the beach daily and has been keeping tabs on the progress with city parks and recreation officials.

Bigley, who co-founded Friends of Davis Islands Dog Parks, said the group's Facebook page has grown and people regularly ask her when the dog beach will reopen. She is working with owners of Fountain Square, a bar on Davis Boulevard, for a grand reopening party.

"It looks ready to go," other than a few benches for humans, Bigley said.

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at eparker@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3431.

Dogs can fetch beach time on Davis Islands soon 11/06/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 6, 2013 2:58pm]
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