SPRING HILL — Every dog has its day. And Hernando County canines got theirs Saturday with the opening of Rotary Centennial Park.
"It's a godsend," said Beth Hiller, whose 3-year-old pit bull mix named Daisy was among the first pooches to try out the new 8-acre facility on Sandlor Street off Landover Boulevard.
For Hiller, the opening of the county's first designated dog park means that she will no longer have to drive to Lutz on weekends to let Daisy run.
"We've needed one for a long time," she said. "I think it's going be used a lot."
That appeared to be evident by the 100 or so dog owners who showed up at Rotary Centennial Park on Saturday with their canine friends in tow.
Steve Latch, owner of a 6-year-old Weimaraner mix named Max, said he was happy that the county decided to build a dog park, but thought it should have been done years ago.
"Seeing that dogs aren't allowed in county parks, you would have thought the message had gotten through a long time ago," said Latch as he watched Max chase after a tennis ball. "I hope the trend continues."
Though plans for the park were announced more than four years ago, the project, which was initiated with financial contributions from the Spring Hill Central Rotary Club, faced several delays because of the difficulty in raising money. In December, Hernando County parks director Pat Fagan persuaded county commissioners to use $25,000 in park impact fee dollars to complete the restrooms, parking area and sidewalks. The Rotary Club has pledged to pay the money back to the county.
"I think it was money well spent," said Fagan, who was on hand at Saturday's dedication ceremonies. "This was something that people will support and use for years to come."
The park has a 6-foot-high chain-link perimeter fence with separate open areas for small dogs, larger dogs and service dogs to socialize. It also includes an area where leashed pets can be walked.
Other dog-friendly amenities in the park include automatic water dishes, covered rest areas and restrooms for visitors.
Strict rules require that dog owners keep their pets under control and clean up their messes.
Doug Dawry doesn't think that will be much of a problem.
"Most people who own dogs are used to looking after them," said Dawry, who brought his 2-year-old Labrador retriever, Rocky, to the park. "They don't let them get into fights. They love them too much."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.