A fence separating the dog park into two quadrants was removed and a layer of mulch was spread on the ground — much to the chagrin of dog owners.
Waynesville resident Bruce Cramond is going so far as boycotting the dog park. Instead, he and his Springer Spaniel Hank can be found playing catch in the grass just outside the fenced dog park. Technically, it violates town rules to have dogs off their leash in the recreation park. But Cramond, nor Hank, like the new mulch that was put down.
“I don’t even bring him over there,” Cramond said, standing outside the fenced park with his dog last week. “It’s dirty.”
Previously, the town reseeded the dog park with new grass each spring. But this year, mulch was spread instead, and dog owners don’t like it. The mulch bothers dogs’ paws and makes it harder to scoop poop up, which now gets buried and ground into the mulch.
Rhett Langston, director of Waynesville’s Parks and Recreation Department, said the town had received complaints about the dog park being too muddy — grass simply didn’t stand up well to all the romping canines or the wet weather. So the town started looking for possible remedies. Langston found that dog parks in Asheville and Black Mountain used mulch rather than grass.
The recreation department decided mulch was the best option, but they knew not everyone would be happy with it, Langston said.
“Some people wanted to grass. Some people wanted mulch,” he said. “We are trying to make the best improvements for the park.”
However, Cramond said the mulch smells. People are not picking up their dogs’ poop like they are supposed to because it gets lost among the mulch.
“That’s unhealthy. You are going to have bacteria in there,” Cramond said.
Another dog owner, Suzanne Hummer, is also concerned about the mulch but for a different reason. She owns two greyhounds, Prince and Jody, and worries about the mulch wounding them.
“A greyhound’s skin is like lace,” Hummer said. “It’s not safe.”
Hummer added that the coarse mulch is not ground up enough.
“There are sticks five inches long,” she said.
As a dog park regular, Hummer said she understands that the park will not always be perfect, and that it’s hard getting grass to grow, but would prefer a dirt lot over mulch. Hummer hypothesized that the complaints about mud likely came from out-of-towners who aren’t used to Western North Carolina’s weather conditions.
Dog owners are also complaining about the removal of a fence that once separated the dog park into two sections — one for big dogs and one for small dogs. But according to Langston, he and other town employees noticed that owners and their dogs tended to congregate on one side or the other so they could socialize. That led them to think, “Why don’t we just make one large park?” That way, the dogs would have more room to run around, he said.
Although dog park visitors did not split their pooches up based on size, regulars said the partition was important for keeping aggressive and unfriendly dogs (or their owners) away from the others.
One day not long ago, a man brought his three unneutered pit bulls to the dog park to let them run around, and he could not tell other dog owners whether his canines were friendly. That prevented others from using the dog park for fear that the pit bulls would harm their animals, Hummer said.
“It was stupid,” she said. “No one could get in.”
By having two smaller dog parks separated by an internal fence, pet owners were able to keep their dogs away from other, possibly aggressive, canines.
Langston emphasized that the changes were made in an effort to improve the dog park. He added that the department plans to install new benches inside the park and recently planted Leyland Cypress trees near the park for shade. They are also looking into putting a water source next to the dog park for owners and animals alike.