Special Section

A Walk in the (Dog) Park

Chippewa Valley Canines Begging for More Parks

Gillian Ekern, photos by Marisa Wojcik |

The growing success of Eau Claire’s dog park has spurned such an interest that as many as four others may develop in the Chippewa Valley in the next few years.

According to Phil Fieber, director of Parks and Recreation, the city sold 623 season passes to Eau Claire Dog Park just last year, doubling the numbers from 2004. “We think the dog park helps pay for itself,” he said. “It’s been a really good venture for the city.”

Eighty percent of the user fees are set aside for future development and maintenance of the current park. Parks and Recreation Superintendent Phil Johnson said the park makes about $10,000 a year through fees and a large amount of what is in the fund is available for improvements or the development of a new park.

Dog owners in Eau Claire are pushing for a new park on the north side of town on Jeffers Road, while another could sprout up on Forest Street (across from Phoenix Park) as part of a larger redevelopment project.

The current park is about 11 acres and has faced only a few problems with inattentive owners, aggressive dogs, and the issue of placing larger dogs in the same setting as smaller dogs.

Pat Williams, a member of the Friends of the Dog Park, said a new dog park would take some of the pressure off of the existing one and offer more accessibility to different neighborhoods.

“As well used as the original dog park is, it would be good for the park and for those people on the north side, and their dogs,” she said.

Williams said the plans for the new park would include 10 acres, plus two more for a small dog and puppy park, solving one of the original park’s problems. It is still unsure whether water access will be available. Williams said this could depend on financial feasibility as well as what community members prefer.

    The city’s Parks and Recreation Committee just met on June 23 to discuss the location and fundraising for the project, and Williams is hopeful the park proposal will go through.

The next obstacle is raising enough money to support the project. In previous years the annual dog swim fest has raised money for the dog park and will now go towards building the new one. The event invites dogs and their owners to swim in the Fairfax Pool at the end of the summer. About 300 dogs and 500 people attended last year.

The other possible Eau Claire dog park may be a part of a larger project near downtown that may include additional parking for Phoenix Park, community gardens, and an extension to the bike path. Though it is too early to say, Johnson said a two-acre dog park could be a possibility because that neighborhood’s dogs and dog owners are already using the area.

“(This plan) is good because the point of a dog park is to allow dogs and owners to socialize in a way they can’t do in any other part of the city,” Johnson said.

Chippewa Falls and Menomonie are likewise looking to develop their own dog parks. Menomonie has already approved their site, which is near the Dunn County Humane Society. The site will include an 11.5 acre enclosed area with a five-acre enclosure for smaller dogs. The organization The Friends of the Menomonie Dog Park is taking personal donations and volunteers in order to raise enough money for the fence. Chippewa Falls has yet to decide on a location and what will be included.