Overton Park is going to the dogs ... literally.
On Saturday, June 2nd, the Overton Park Conservancy will cut the leash on a new fenced dog park, the first major capital project by the park's nonprofit management group.
Appropriately named Overton Bark, the 1.3-acre park features two fenced areas (one for large dogs and one for small dogs), water fountains for people and dogs, and a modest agility course.
A fenced, off-leash park for dogs was one of the improvements survey respondents asked for when advocates polled park users last summer.
"The top thing people wanted, by far, was a clean and safe park, but a dog park was frequently mentioned," said Naomi Van Tol, director of operations and capital improvements for the conservancy.
For years, many dog owners have allowed their dogs to roam free off-leash on the Overton Park greensward, but that's a violation of city ordinance. The conservancy doesn't have the authority to enforce that law, and Memphis Police rarely ticket people for letting their dogs loose in the park.
"It is traditional for people to have their dogs off-leash, but now we're offering an option for people who want to obey the law and be able to run their dogs off-leash," Van Tol said. "A lot of people want to socialize their dogs in an enclosed area, so they don't have to constantly be right next to them."
Each side of the Askew Nixon Ferguson-designed park will have water fountains with three heights, including one for people in wheelchairs and one for dogs. The dog fountain is controlled by a button that the dog's owner must press.
"Maybe people can train their dogs to push the button," Van Tol said with a laugh. "A large dog could probably figure it out."
Benches and agility course hurdles are constructed from fallen trees, and native plants, such as buckeye and hydrangeas, are planted outside the dog park fence. The surface of the park will be partially covered in nontoxic wood chips to cushion the area and to prevent mud holes from forming after it rains.
"The dogs will love mud holes, but I don't know if the people will," Van Tol said. "Right now, we have the highest trafficked areas covered, but we'll eventually cover the whole interior with wood chips as holes develop."
Memphis-based pet store chain Hollywood Feed is sponsoring the park. They offered money for its construction, and they'll be supplying the waste stations with bags. They're also co-hosting the opening-day "leash-cutting" event on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
"We thought as great as Midtown has been to Hollywood Feed that it'd be great to give back," said Hollywood Feed president Shawn McGhee. "Our employees and customers use Overton Park, so we thought having a dog park there would be fantastic."
Opening-day events include a one-mile fun walk and dog parade, a food truck rodeo, and live music by the Wuvbirds, the Side Street Steppers, and the Theoretical Monkeys. The grand opening is free, but the cost to enter the dog parade is $15 in advance or $20 on the day of the event. Proceeds benefit the Streetdog Foundation and the Overton Park Conservancy.