FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. -- After the snow and ice clears, construction of the installation's new Bark Park for dogs will continue with the grading and graveling of the parking lot in time for a spring opening.

Stacy Echard, acting chief of the community recreation division at the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, said the park was created in response to the Fort Meade community's requests and a proposal from the Army Family Action Plan symposium in 2009.

"Dogs are a special part of military families," Echard said. "The least we can do is provide accommodations."

The proposal for a dog park was reviewed by community delegates at an AFAP symposium and was presented to subject matter experts from FMWR for their input. The proposal was then prioritized with other issues and presented to Installation Commander Col. Daniel L. Thomas for his consideration.

"He felt could we could have this project completed in a timely manner and agreed with the delegates that the dog park would be a great fit for the community," said Pia Morales, AFAP program manager.

State and county law and Army regulations state that dogs and cats must be on a leash, chained or penned at all times when they are outside. The Bark Park, which is located on Ernie Pyle Street between the Youth Center and MacArthur Road, gives owners a place where they can legally exercise their pets off of a leash, Echard said.

The fenced park is divided between a 156-by-180-foot space for large dogs and 79-by-180-foot space for small dogs. The park provides a double-entry fence to ensure that animals do not leave the park without their owners.

Installation of the 4-foot fence around the grassy area was completed last November by Vigil Contracting Inc., a Crofton-based contractor for the Directorate of Public Works.

When the park opens in the spring, the installation's Outdoor Recreation division will be responsible for its maintenance and will provide doggie bags and trash cans.

Owners must supervise their dogs in and outside of the park, and are responsible for cleaning up after their pets and providing water for them. Adjacent to the park's parking lot will be a set of bleachers for owners to sit with their dogs and chat with other owners.

Officer John Butterfield, the installation's animal control officer at the Directorate of Emergency Services, will monitor the park to ensure that owners and their pets are safe and are properly utilizing the area.

Butterfield, who is helping Echard devise the proposed rules and guidelines for the park, said he will be on the lookout for dog fights, dogs that bite, and animals that may get loose from the park.

Depending on the infraction, owners can be issued a citation or, in extreme cases, an owner and pet may be barred from the park.

Morales said construction of Bark Park is a great example of how community needs can be resolved at the local level.

"It's going to happen and we're excited," she said.

Page last updated Thu February 10th, 2011 at 09:10