To the delight of city dog owners, Baltimore's second dog park opens today in Locust Point.
About the same size as the Canton Dog Park, which has been open a few years, the new park, on Andre Street at the edge of Latrobe Park, has a few more bells and whistles. For instance, dogs will be able to splash in a creek-like water feature and scale a hill covered in artificial "canine turf."
"We live in the city where there's not a lot of green space, and this is kind of like our yard for our dogs," said Jamie Kelley, president of Friends of the Locust Point Dog Park, a group that helped raise money for the park.
Adds Barbara Wilson, who brought together volunteers to support the park two years ago: "Any dog owners know these are our children and they're part of our family, and we want them to be happy."
Mayor Sheila Dixon will open the park with a ceremony at noon.
Already this week, Kelley's yellow lab, Payton, and Wilson's Australian cattle dog, Dixie, have romped through the terrain, fenced in with an iron gate. Payton happily splashed in the water.
Tom Carney's beagle, Stanley, rolled blissfully in the faux grass.
"I think he's going to enjoy not being on the leash all the time," said Carney, who lives a block away and supported some of the fundraisers the dog park group organized over the years.
The park cost about $200,000, of which the community contributed about $50,000 while the city paid the rest.
Kelley, a professional fundraiser for Johns Hopkins Hospital, said Locust Point raised the money slowly - with numerous happy or "yappy" hours at area bars, raffle sales and pet pictures with Santa. The Abel Foundation chipped in. Developer Mark Sapperstein, who is building a shopping and residential complex up Fort Avenue, paid for the fencing.
Meanwhile, over the summer the city began working with dog owners near Riverside Park, Patterson Park and Wyman Park to establish times when dogs could be lawfully off-leash at the parks.
The City Council voted in May to look into establishing off-leash hours at city parks. Michele Speaks-March, chief of communications and development for the city's Recreation and Parks Department, said officials continue to meet with the communities in an effort to come up with an agreeable plan.
A meeting in July about a proposed off-leash dog area quickly turned heated as dog owners squared off against those who feared that dogs running freely in the parks would be a safety hazard.
Speaks-March said the city is continuing to meet with residents near Patterson Park and will start to talk to residents at the other proposed sites.
"We'll continue to engage communities interested in these options," she said. "Where there's community interest and support and appropriate space, we'll do what we can."