ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. - Some people howled when Jim Wilson announced plans to create a beach for dogs at beautiful Fort Desoto Park.
The hair stood up on the back of their necks when it became clear Wilson’s pet project would be located near to the “best” human beach in the United States.
But Wilson told them they were barking up the wrong tree, unleashed his authority (as park superintendent) and begged his superiors to give the dog beach the go ahead.
Today, people are patting him on the back because his project has made everyone happy — especially the dogs.
“My staff was spending so much time patrolling our other beaches, trying to keep owners from bringing their dogs into areas where humans swim, I decided to utilize this secluded area of the park for our Paw Playground,” said the congenial Wilson, himself the proud owner of two labs.
“Now my staff spends their time concentrating on more important things than chasing dogs.”
Paw Playground is located on the Tampa Bay side of the massive 1,136 acre park, located in Pinellas County, not far from downtown St. Petersburg. Fort Desoto Park is home to almost 10 kilometres of beach, including North Beach, which was recently named the top stretch of sand in the United States.
Left: Dogs paws to play with their two-legged friends near St. Petersburg. Right: Dog owners love that they can play with their pets in the water.
The three acre Paw Playground consists of a large off-leash area — complete with fire hydrants — where the dogs can socialize. The playground’s small stretch of beach attracts upwards of 200 dogs on weekends.
“Believe it or not, this has become one of the most popular gathering spots in the entire park,” said Wilson.
The dogs love the beach environment. They chase each other up and down the pristine shoreline and happily jump into the water after their masters. And dog owners seem to be pretty happy, too.
“It’s nice to have a place where you can bring your dog and not have other people give you dirty looks,” said one vacationing dog owner from Cleveland.
The beach is in a environmentally sensitive area, where sea turtles lay their eggs, but the dogs remain on their small patch of beach and have never been caught digging up the nests.
The success of Paw Playground encouraged Wilson to unleash another of his brilliant ideas — a pet campground.
Since Fort Desoto Park is also regularly voted one of the best areas in the United States for camping, Wilson decided to make pet owners feel welcome by setting aside another portion of the park for them and their four-legged friends.
“That too has become a popular spot,” he said.
Dogs have spas, hotels and now their own private beach.
Seems to me a dog’s life isn’t so bad after all!
- You pay a small toll crossing a causeway that leads to Fort Desoto Park, but there is no entrance fee.
- Reservations are recommended for campers.
- For more on the park, go to www.co.pinellas.fl.us/bcc