‘Tis the season for our favorite warm-weather outdoor activities. And for those of us with canine family members, that includes visits toWheeling’s dog parks.
“In general, parks are an important quality of life aspect of a city. We are blessed to have not one, but three dog parks in Wheeling and without a doubt, they are amongst the most popular facilities utilized on a regular basis. Not only do they provide an opportunity for the dogs to safely to run off a leash, but there’s a social component for the pet parents as well,” says Rochelle Barry, Wheeling’s Director of Parks and Recreation.
According to Petsafe.net, dog parks benefit communities in many ways. They restrict off-leash dogs to a securely-confined area, limiting their exposure to citizens outside the park. Allowing dogs to run freely helps to ensure they get enough exercise, which can reduce behavioral issues. And since behavior problems are the number one reason that animals end up in shelters, dog parks can therefore help reduce shelter overcrowding and euthanasia.
Wheeling’s three dog parks are situated throughout the community for ease of accessibility. The original park, which opened in 2016, is located within the Tunnel Green recreation complex in East Wheeling. This site is accessible from the trail system as well as from 18th Street. It’s also the largest of the three parks.
The Tunnel Green dog park began with $25,000 in prize money won by popular vote in the PetSafe corporation’s “Bark for Your Park” online contest in 2013. A generous donation from the Fitzsimmons Foundation helped to make the dream of a community dog park a reality. Kayleen Fitzsimmons Clough, a trustee of the Fitzsimmons Foundation, tells Weelunk, “The mission of the Fitzsimmons Foundation is to improve the quality of life for our neighbors and to help those that are less fortunate.The dog community is a huge part of the Ohio Valley. We believe these dog parks give residents and their pets an enjoyable space to socialize, enhance sense of community and encourage active lifestyles. The City of Wheeling officials continue to proactively make the city a more enjoyable place to live, and there is a great feeling of Wheeling pride when we see the dog parks busy on a day-to-day basis.”
Although there have been some issues in the past with the turf inside the park, those issues are now resolved and this beautiful area is ready to welcome furry visitors and their humans each day between dawn and dusk. There is ample parking in the adjacent lot.
In 2022, the Wheeling Park dog park opened its gates to the public. This park is located between the White Palace and the golf course and is accessible via the main entrance to Wheeling Park. Owners are welcome to park in the main lot near White Palace.
The newest member of the pack is the dog park behind the fire station in the Warwood neighborhood. This park is accessible from the Heritage Trail system as well as from Viking Drive near Warwood School. Parking is available next to the dog park area.
Like the Tunnel Green park, the two newest parks were also funded by the Fitzsimmons Foundation. Warwood and Tunnel Green parks are maintained by the city of Wheeling, while the Wheeling Park dog park is maintained by the Wheeling Park Commission.
Good Dogs Obey the Rules
Each park is divided into two sections – one area for pups under 30 pounds and a separate area for dogs over 30 pounds. Each park has water and waste stations, as well as comfy benches for owners to sit and stay while their four-footed babies enjoy a romp in the grass.
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The regulations for the dog parks are basic common-sense pet courtesy measures – dogs must be over six months of age and properly licensed and vaccinated. No vicious dog behavior will be tolerated. Female dogs in heat are prohibited, as are dog toys, baby pools, food, smoking, alcohol and glass containers. Owners must clean up after their dogs and assume responsibility/liability for their behavior.
From time to time, turf damage due to weather conditions or other factors may be cause for the City to close the park(s) temporarily until the situation can be corrected. You can check the Fitzsimmons Family Dog Parks Facebook page for maintenance updates.
Wheeling is on a quest to become the Dog-Friendly City. Last October, Wheeling Heritage held “The Dog-Friendly Wheeling Workshop” to learn how having a pet-friendly downtown can be a powerful way to build and engage our community. Deborah Turcott, founder and principal at Oriana Solutions, led a discussion about different approaches to make downtown Wheeling welcoming to pets and their humans. One major outcome of this session was the creation of the highly successful FidoFestevent, which was held in May. FidoFest was organized by local community service group Volunteer Wheeling. Mayor Glenn Elliott also proclaimed the day of FidoFest “Wheeling Dog Day.”
New Art Installation
If you’ve visited the Tunnel Green dog park this summer, you’ve likely noticed the new outdoor public art installation along the road approaching the park. The fun and colorful display, also visible from the highway, is sure to bring a smile to your face.
Volunteer Wheeling offered area residents the chance to paint their dogs at several “Paint Your Pet” events in recent months. Not only did the artists get to paint a pet portrait to enjoy at home, but the paintings were made into the vinyl banners that are now displayed along the fence at the dog park. The art installation was initially unveiled during FidoFest.
Volunteer Wheeling founder Ellen Gano shares, “The dog portrait art installation at Fitzsimmons Family Dog Park in East Wheeling is a great example of how local citizens can make an impact in the beautification and revitalization of Wheeling. Volunteering doesn’t always require special talents, big donations or a huge time commitment. In this case, it was merely getting a big group of people to participate in a Paint Your Pup art session. From that, finished pet portraits were digitized and turned into the large canvases that now grace the dog park’s outer fence.”
The group hopes to continue filling spaces along the fence at Tunnel Green and possibly at the two other parks as well. In addition, the group hopes to hold a second FidoFest next spring.
Weelunk hopes you and your fur kids take the time this summer to enjoy a howling good time together at one of Wheeling’s dog parks. And don’t forget to treat Fido to his favorite “pup cup” afterward!
• Ellen Brafford McCroskey is a lifelong resident of Wheeling and a proud graduate of Wheeling Park High School, where she discovered her love of writing as a member of the yearbook staff. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Human Resources Management at the former Wheeling Jesuit College. By day, she utilizes that degree at the international law firm where she is employed. After work, you can find her relaxing with family, friends, and her clowder of cats.