Paws in the Park |

Paws in the Park

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

Responsible dog owners are well aware that walking their canines and giving them an outlet for regular exercise is a great way of bonding while maintaining the health of the animal.

But for lots of dog owners, finding a regular location for exercising an animal is not always an easy proposition.

But over the course of the last 12 months, word has been getting out that Grass Valley now has an excellent dog park located at Condon Park.

Kudos for the facility goes to a nonprofit organization of volunteers called Dogs Run Free that runs and maintains the public recreational facility without any public funding.

It’s been almost a year since Grass Valley initiated its dog park and according to current Dogs Run Free board President Andie Reed, rumor has it that an “Occupy Dog Park” celebration, marking the one-year anniversary of the facility is planned for Saturday, Nov. 17.

The genesis of Dogs Run Free began in 2008, with City Council approval for the dog park coming to fruition in 2011.

According to Reed, park planning was more than a year in the making before ground was ever broken for the project.

The several acres given for the park was almost completely covered with manzanita brush.

“We looked at that and thought ‘oh my goodness;’ it was a very unused portion of the park,” Reed laughed.

“But by November of 2011, when we opened, it had been transformed into this beautiful, 1.7 acres of fenced rolling hills, with Ponderosa pines and scrub oaks. There are parking spaces, sidewalks and garbage cans and in the summer, baby pools for the dogs to play in.”

According to Reed, the Condon Dog Park was a badly needed facility. Neither Grass Valley nor Nevada City had a dedicated location where dog owners could take their pets for play and exercise.

“We had to go through the necessary steps to make people understand Grass Valley was a perfect place for this recreational facility and that there was enough support for it,” Reed said. “But we were willing to take this on and felt confident that we would get community support and pull this off.”

Dogs Run Free now boasts a multitude of volunteers helping with park maintenance and keeping the location “clean and in good shape.”

“We supply brochures (about the park) at real estate offices and for tourists at pet-friendly hotels,” Reed said. “It’s an attraction for the tourist industry.”

According to Reed, dog owners using the park tend to come in waves. There’s a morning crowd, an evening crowd and folks who bring their animals in the off hours.

She says that maybe the biggest surprise and obstacle of the park opening was in not realizing that most of those utilizing the facility would be on hand at the same time.

“When we opened the park last year, there was a lot of excitement and at one point we had approximately 80 dogs in there,” Reed said.

“There were people making speeches and we had vendors and people were in a great party mood and then I looked over and saw all of these dogs.”

Fortunately, no negative incidents were reported.

“Everyone just got along beautifully,” Reed said. “We had never really thought about all of the dogs being there at the same time.”

The park is open sunup to sundown, serving approximately 30 to 50 dogs each day. Agility equipment is available. Clean pine needles are provided for ground cover on a regular basis and volunteers are usually on hand for assistance. Reed describes what it’s like for folks using the dog park for the first time.

“When you walk in through the first gate with your dog on a leash, you’ll be in a little foyer and right there in front is a shed that has a bulletin board with a whole set of rules that we worked out with the city,” Reed said.

“You have to keep an eye on your dog, you have to pick up their poop; the dog park is not a place for running children and we also have a group of ambassadors who take turns coming in once a day to pick up poop that may have been missed and make sure the park is clean.”

Reed, herself a Bay Area transplant who is now semi-retired, praises the park for providing a great social setting where folks can meet new people and make friends in the process.

“This has given me a chance to become more acquainted with the community and I’ve met great friends through it,” Reed said.

“I always knew that if there was a dog park, I could make friends in a new community. This is exercise and socializing for both dogs and people.”

For more information, go to the Dogs Run Free Facebook page at Dogs Run Free-Grass Valley Dog Park, or visit the organization’s website at http://www.dogsrun

Tom Kellar is a freelance writer living in Grass Valley. He can be reached at

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