Gravy Train

Taxpayers foot the bill for Rover's ramblin'

Bark Park, which opened last September at Snyder Park in Fort Lauderdale, cost $90,000; the money came from a $35 million parks bond program. Because the city charges admission for dogs and owners, the facility almost pays for itself -- no small feat, according to Vince Gizzi, superintendent of special facilities for Fort Lauderdale's parks. Caring for it costs $350,000 annually. "There's quite a bit of maintenance involved in dog parks," Gizzi says. "You'd be surprised at how much the sod gets torn up."

But most pro-dog park activists don't think about expenses, laments Boynton Beach resident Edward Resnick: "It's a great place if you have an animal, but people don't research things like how much it costs to upkeep it." Resnick, who likes dogs, is not opposed to the parks but to the way governments rush to build them. Boynton Beach city commissioners approved a temporary park this past March, but when the price jumped from $26,000 to $46,000, commissioners decided that pets could wait for a permanent place. Vice Mayor Ronald Weiland was so enthusiastic about the temporary facility that he offered to use taxpayer money from his discretionary account.

After renovations that cost $240,000, Poinciana Park in Hollywood is expected to open this month. Though improvements such as animal drinking fountains were meant to please dog owners, a new playground, a picnic pavilion and other new amenities for the humans are included. That park won't sport a lot of fancy, expensive toys. Hollywood pets prefer open running space, their owners told city officials at a special meeting early this year. (Dogs, too, attended that confab.)

The City of Plantation will also have its own doggy digs by the end of the year. At $400,000 that facility will be the most expensive in the area, funded by a $150,000 state grant, a $30,000 donation from the pet-food company Hill's Pet Nutrition, and $220,000 from city coffers.

According to Plantation parks director Jim Romano, the western section of the five-acre space will comprise the training ground for the police K-9 dog unit, two and a half acres of open space and drinking fountains will make up the running area, a third portion will include agility play equipment galore, and the last part will be exclusive to dogs 25 pounds and lighter. The park will also have an irrigation system to flush out what owners neglect to bag up and will undergo regular antiflea sprayings. Romano cites two reasons for the prodigious expenditure: "There's a certain standard we have here," he says. "And if the dog-park fad goes away, we'll still have a nice park for people."

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