Spring 2009 Newsletter

Jackass Acres K-9 Koral:
America's First Green Dog Park

By Debra J. White

Going green has gone to the dogs. A sustainable dog park opened last year in the Arizona desert built entirely from recycled or reused material. How'd they do it?

On March 1, 2008 Jackass Acres K-9 Koral, the nation's first environmentally friendly dog park, celebrated their grand opening in front of a crowd of tail wagging dogs and their delighted owners. If Jackass Acres were a building and not a park, it might qualify for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the US Green Building Council.

Anthem Pets, a non-profit group dedicated to pets in a far corner of northwest Maricopa County, spent years organizing, fundraising, and planning for the unique park so dogs could exercise and owners could socialize in a safe, fun, and environmentally friendly setting.

Situated on 2 acres of property known locally as Jackass Acres, Anthem Pets president Barbara Ward-Windgassen didn't want to lose the community roots. "So the name Jackass Acres stayed," she says. "Local history remains intact."

When Anthem Pets took over the property, volunteers yanked weeds by hand careful not to disturb native plants or trees. To follow the desert motif and save water, the park has no grass. It's landscaped with smooth gravel that's easy on dog's paws. Water fountains, misting systems, and lights operate by solar power, a significant accomplishment since developers are reluctant to add solar to new housing. Wooden benches, tables and chairs are carved from fallen tree limbs. An artist donated the metal animal sculptures from recycled auto parts. A flagpole supporting our stars and stripes is an old TV antenna. To comply with state and federal laws, the park is handicapped accessible for wheelchair dog owners and guests. Like most dog parks, Jackass Acres is divided into two sections, one for smaller and sedate dogs and one for the canines that love to romp and roll. A few sections have artificial turf that comes from the NFL. Summer monsoon rains can soak the Phoenix area so the park was designed so excess water runs into the trees. Poop stations offer biodegradable bags but Windgassen hasn't found a market yet for recycled dog dodo. "We're working on it," she says with an impish grin.

Many dog parks cost over $200,000 to build but Anthem Pets put Jackass Acres together for a mere $50,000. "We sold commemorative bricks, solicited donations, and held fundraisers," Windgassen says. "The community wanted a dog park so they rallied around us to build one we could be proud of." Yearly membership is $35 per dog, $50 for two or more dogs. Fees are used for maintenance and upkeep. Park dogs must be licensed and current on vaccinations.

Besides maintaining Jackass Acres, Anthem Pets reunites lost pets with their owners. They find homes for unwanted cats and dogs in their community. And they support responsible pet ownership by hosting licensing/vaccination clinics and spay/neuter programs.

"We believe in giving back," says Windgassen. In the past year, Anthem Pets reunited 140 lost pets with their owners and found homes for 82 unwanted dogs and cats. For a determined group of volunteers, Anthem Pets found a way to help pets, people, and the environment in their community.

For more information about Anthem Pets, please visit their website at: www.anthempets.com or anthempets@yahoo.com.


This article first appeared in the spring issue of Pet Planet Magazine.

Debra J. White is a volunteer with the Phoenix Animal Care Coalition www.pacc911.org

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