by Fred Lambert
Here’s a city improvement for you, dog lovers: The City of Orlando will start whipping up a new dog park come February, as part of a wider renovation to Park of the Americas near(ish) Lake Underhill on the east side of town.
The renovation will include a fenced off-leash dog park, as well as a 12-foot-wide jogging path, grills, a playground and a building for community meetings, among other improvements.
The 26-acre park was left disheveled and abandoned after hurricanes Charley, Ivan and Jeanne crashed through in 2004. The park has basically languished ever since, but efforts to reinvent it have renewed, according to Cassandra Lafser, public information officer for the City of Orlando.
“After the hurricanes it was littered with fallen trees, and we didn’t have the money to renovate it,” Lafser said.
The city is paying for the renovation at a cost of approximately $1 million, with help from the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, which threw in funding to pay for a retention basin off of S.R. 408. A grant from the state was also provided.
About eight months ago, downtown Orlando dog lovers started a petition on Change.org requesting that the city's Downtown Development Board build a dog park in the downtown corridor. According to the petition, the closest dog parks for downtowners (many of whom live in condos or apartments that don't have access to yards) are Barber Park and Fleet Peeples Park in Winter Park. "A dog park downtown would also bring customers to local surrounding businesses," the petition reads. "It's also a moral issue. It is about good citizenship (pets and community members) and good stewardship of our resources (unused green space)." The petition received 129 signatures. The new park still won't be located in the downtown development area, though it will be a few miles closer to Lake Eola and Thornton Park than the other options.
Construction begins next month, and the renovations are slated to be complete by late summer.