One of the great lyrical questions of modern existence was answered Saturday morning at Hamilton Crossing Park: who let the dogs out?
The answer — on the local level, at least — is Bartow County Parks and Recreation Director Greg Hight.
“It’s our first dog park, and this is the first part of our new expansion plan here at Hamilton Crossing,” he said at the grand opening of the new public facility. “We’ve got a small dog park and a large dog park, and we’re inviting everybody to come out and give their dogs an opportunity for somewhere to play.”
The dog park is situated in the complex in front of Hamilton Crossing Elementary, directly behind the park’s special needs field.
The dog park is divided into two fields: one for the smaller pooches like bichons, corgis and dachshunds that tip the scales at less than 30 pounds and another for the bigger breeds, such as mastiffs, Saint Bernards and huskies — some of which weigh about as much as your average college football defensive back.
Each park is gated off and double-locked, complete with doggie-sized water fountains and pavilions with tables.
The hours of operation are from sunrise to sunset. Puppies under the age of four months and dogs in heat aren’t allowed in the facilities. Along those same lines, neither people or doggy treats are allowed inside the parks, and pet owners are responsible for cleaning up any messes their canines may leave behind before exiting the premises.
Each human visitor to the park is limited to three dogs; furthermore, the park rules stipulate that each pet must be properly vaccinated for rabies and DHLLP and must wear a collar displaying a current rabies tag and/or license.
Hight said Bartow County residents have been asking for a dog park amenity for years.
“We understand people’s got apartments, small yards, this gives them an opportunity to get out and play like our kids do,” he said. “We get them on the ball fields and lock the gates up and sometimes, they leave surprises behind for our young people. But this gives them a place of their own.”
By 11 a.m. the park had already attracted a large crowd. As Hight noted, the facility is every bit a “people park” as it is a pet playground, allowing local dog owners to socialize with their neighbors — both those of the bipedal and four-legged variety.
The dog park is just one of many major additions to Hamilton Crossing Park.
“We’ve got plans for three additional soccer fields, we’re moving the tennis courts over here, making a bigger parking lot across the road,” Hight said. “Down the road, we’re looking at a multi-gymnasium out front here, an amphitheater, moving our main office over here.”
And then there’s the County’s plans for a major aquatic amenity abutting Highway 41.
“The big expansion I think people’s looking forward to, [the] plan is to build a water park on this side of the park,” he said.
While they couldn't exactly participate in any interviews with The Daily Tribune News, it seems apparent that the boxers, terriers and German Shepherds frolicking about at the park Saturday morning were big fans of Hamilton Crossing's latest attraction.
Indeed, as Hight — the owner of a lab and an “indoor mutt that I guess I rescued” himself — indicated, it’s almost impossible to watch all those canines skip, scamper and spring all over the place and not smile from ear-to-ear.
“They make a person feel good about themselves,” he said of man’s best friend. “That’s what I tell my wife all the time — if they showed me as much attention when I came home as my dog did, I’d be a lucky man.”