America’s Best Dog Parks of 2006

DOG FANCY sniffs out the best of the best.

Fort Woof
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 When John Fergus decided to propose to his girlfriend Cindy Stanton, he didn’t need to look far to find a spot that held a special place in both their hearts: Fort Woof Dog Park in Fort Worth, Texas. “The atmosphere is really special at the park, “John says.

“We’ve taken our dogs to the park since opening day, and have almost every day since.”

When Fort Woof started a fundraiser selling bricks with personalized messages, John bought some for their dogs plus another special one: “Cindy, you have all my love. Will you marry me?” Cindy said yes, as their dogs, Blarney and Butterscotch, romped with pals around the park.

All over America, people are falling in love with and at their dog parks. And it’s no wonder, many boast private beaches, misting towers, agility equipment, and doggie showers. One top-rated park hosts an annual celebration that draws thousands of fun seekers.

Here, we honor the country’s 10 best dog parks nominated by DOG FANCY readers. Each park will receive a $2,500 grant for park improvements from Novartis Animal Health and Deramaxx to encourage healthy canine exercise for all dogs even those with arthritis or other ailments. We hope these standout dog parks and the caring communities that nurture them will inspire you, as they did us.

Fort Woof1) Fort Woof
Dog Park
4500 Gateway Park Boulevard
Fort Worth, Texas 

It’s easy to see why visitors love this five-acre dog park, which sits high on a hill overlooking downtown Fort Worth. Small dogs score their own uncommonly large one-acre space, and faux fire hydrants dot the grassy landscape. Community spirit abounds here, too.

Like many dog parks we researched, Fort Woof grew out of a strong public-private partnership. While the city of Fort Worth built and maintains the dog park, city leaders challenged the parks proponents to raise additional funds to help defray the parks cost. The Fort Worth Dog Park Association was formed to meet the challenge, and it has raised more than $25,000 since the parks 2004 opening, says board member Jason C.N. Smith.

Fort Woof now boasts some of the best attendance of any public park in Fort Worth, and it’s Barktoberfest, held each October, draws thousands of dog lovers. “Fort Woof is a community treasure,” Smith says.

2) Paw Park of Historic Sanford
427 S. French Avenue
Sanford, Fla. 

Paw Park was designed with both dog and human guests in mind. A meandering paved path courses through the park, allowing people with mobility issues to easily navigate the soft grounds. Self-filling water bowls and a misting tower that stands tall enough for humans to walk under keep both owner and dog cool during Floridas hot summers. Park advocates say the entire community, not just dog owners, benefits from the park.

“Converting the park to a dog park has brought new life to the area,” says Mike Knipfer, a member of Friends of Our Paw Park in Sanford.

3) Fort De Soto Park
Paw Playground
3500 Pinellas Bayway South
Tierra Verde, Fla.

When Southeastern dog lovers want a canine-friendly camping getaway, they head to Tierra Verde, along Florida’s northern Gulf shore. The Paw Playground sits on one of the state’s most stunning white-sand beaches, and lies conveniently next to the 1,100 acres of dog-friendly Fort De Soto Park. Dog owners wishing to stay overnight can book one of 238 campsites, and enjoy miles of hiking and biking trails, as well as boat-launching facilities, says Bob Browning, the district supervisor who oversees the popular parks. The Paw Playground includes separate fenced areas for small and large dogs, as well as showers for dogs who emerge sandy and soaking after a romp in the warm Gulf surf.

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Dogs · Health and Care