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Canine friends hit the gym
Boca Ciega Millennium Park’s Paw Playground reopens
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SEMINOLE – Calling all canines, large and small, furry and buzz-cut. The Paw Playground at Boca Ciega Millennium Park has added some pizzazz to make romping trips even better. Agility equipment, a redesigned water area, more trees and fresh sod will make for a howling good time for dogs and humans alike.

For the last couple of weeks, the doggie playground has been closed to prepare for the changes. And, no doubt, the 200 or more patrons a day planning to visit the playground have been disappointed but Judy Jarosz, park supervisor, believes the wait was worth it.

“We really had to move fast to get all the things we wanted to get done while the playground was closed,” said Jarosz. The maintenance included applying fertilizer for the grass and insecticide to keep the fleas and ticks at bay. “We didn’t want our patrons or animals getting the poison on their paws,” she said.

Also, five or six agility pieces were added, especially made by the park staff. “We didn’t have the money to buy pieces but wanted to respond to requests from pet owners,” she said. So, the staff used excess resources, like PVC pipe, to make a tunnel, hoop and ramp for a little extra activity for the pooches. The apparatus was made according to specifications found on off-the-shelf equipment.

Jarosz said both sides of the park have comparable equipment. “We didn’t want our smaller dogs peeking through the fence,” she added with a laugh. No dog envy at the Paw Playground. In truth, both the large and small dog areas are the same size so dog types can be switched once in a while to lessen the impact of having larger dogs pound the same ground continually.

More shade will be available for dogs and humans with the addition of trees, and a new sodden area spruces up a corner. “We treat the area as if our pets go here, which in fact, they do,” Jarosz said. Service to patrons extends a long way at Paw Playground. One patron brings her blind dog to run regularly. To assure Sam doesn’t bump into the trees, staff members put mulch around them to give the dog a signal to stop.

Jarosz notes many side benefits of the dog park, that’s only about 1 1/2 years old. First, it helps with the leash laws within the park. “All dogs should be on a leash,” said Jarosz. “If we see them off lead, we encourage the patron to take the animal to the dog park.” It makes enforcement much easier and pleasant for visitors as well.

Another benefit Jarosz hadn’t thought about before the Paw Playground opened was the sense of community created. A lot of friendships have formed from all walks of life around the community. “I thought people might just come and let their dogs run,” Jarosz said. “But the people are friendly and build obvious friendships.” Not everyone knows everyone else’s names, she said, but they certainly know all the dogs’ names.

When the playground originally opened, El Nino blew through, and drainage was a sizable problem for some time as water from Park Boulevard ran off into the bay. But now, Jarosz said it drains much better. After three days of solid rain, the playground was dry.

A key to having a good time for pups means assuring shots are up-to-date. Although extremely rare, if a scuffle happens and a dog gets bitten, it’s important to be able to check tags to assure immunizations are current. “We play the ‘what if’ game here to make sure things don’t go wrong,” Jarosz said.

The park supervisor also encourages visitors to give their opinions and feedback. “We value their input,” she said. “It’s very important.” It is the staff’s mission to make the park accessible for patrons and at the same time, protect the well-being of wildlife and plant life.

“We encourage everyone to come out and see what we have to offer,” said Jarosz. She noted that roughly 700 people do visit the park everyday, especially on weekends. The dog park has increased attendance significantly, and ground maintenance will be scheduled annually.

This park is located at 12410 74th Ave. N., Old Oakhurst Road, in Seminole.
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