Greenwood Heights dog owners pitch in to improve local dog park

a dog in the dog park
Volunteers’ canine companions, pictured here R2, doggedly supervised the clean up.
Photo by Jessica Parks

A cadre of canine owners in Greenwood Heights are rolling up their sleeves to help fix their beloved local dog park — raising thousands of dollars to improve the stomping ground for their furry friends.

“The dog park has been really important to our community,” said Adam Maynard, who spearheading the dog park improvements with Evan Saucier, “and if we want to keep it a safe place for us and our dogs we have to put the work in.” 

The South Slope Dog Run on 18th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues is prone to dust storms, flooding from poor drainage and litter from the excavation of the Prospect Expressway in the mid-1900s, neighbors said, with some worrying about the effects the dust might have on their furry companions.

Brooklyn Paper reporter Jessica Parks’ best friend Moose, pictured on the right, at his favorite hang-out spot prior to the improvements.Photo by Jessica Parks

“I get nervous about bringing Okie because there is dirt blowing in the wind constantly,” said Laura Murray. “I just know that is getting in her lungs but I don’t have any other option.”

But the Fido-friendly space — which was created in 2010 — is the only dog park in the neighborhood, and, just like many city dwellers, the local canine corral served as a sanctuary for them and their furry friends during the pandemic, the volunteers said.

“We call it the Dust Bowl, and you know it’s the only place nearby and it’s such a dog-centric neighborhood,” Murray said. “It’s New York City, we live in tiny apartments and its very important for our dogs to socialize” 

Now, they’ve taken it upon themselves to maintain the dog park, this time raising $2,000 in just 24 hours to buy topsoil to protect the trees, as well as bark mulch later down the road. 

“I am just really happy that people in the community and dog owners were quick and very generous to pitch in,” said Saucier. 

The pups needed a break from their hard work supervising.Photo by Adam Maynard

Though some issues arose with the bark mulch, which they said would help solve the park’s drainage issue, a group pitched in early Thursday, joined by their doggos, to spread the soil and even construct a makeshift gutter.

“We are working on getting mulch or wood chips to cover the surface, to keep the dust down,” Saucier said. “The mulch and the topsoil will help stop the pooling of water. We are also going to have to make sure the water is able to cascade down, so we jerry rigged irrigation ditches.” 

The new soil will help fortify the run’s three remaining living trees, which help provide the only shade in the park, along with one dead tree which locals have called on the city to cut down. 

“We wanted to protect our existing trees,” Saucier said. “One is dead, and we haven’t been able to get the city to cut it down — and even then, replacing it would be just a sapling, which wouldn’t produce shade. We basically need to protect the ones we have or we are going to be out of luck.” 

The crew of do-gooders said they choose to do these little fixes instead of applying for an overhaul from the Parks Department as they don’t want to see the park closed for a year-plus due to the infamously slow city bureaucracy.

“We don’t want to shut this down while they make the improvements,” said Adam Maynard, who spearheaded the initiative, “so I feel like over time we could do it, just projects over time to maintain it.” 

Mostly everything in the dog run has been maintained, donated, or built by caring dog owners who want to make the brown space better for everyone, especially for the neighborhood’s four-legged companions. 

“Everything that you see here, including the picnic benches, was done by volunteers,” Maynard said. 

In addition to the bark mulch, the group of volunteers plans to keep working to enhance the dog run, and have asked the city to work on planting new trees and adding a waterline for the dogs to have drinking water, Maynard told Brooklyn Paper. 

“We are exploring ways to continue to make improvements,” he said. “Like, asking the parks department for trees, and the city for a waterline.” 

One neighbor lending a hand said she thinks more people have taken notice of the needs of their dog run after the pandemic highlighted the importance of it in the community. 

“During COVID, this became a really supportive, social spot,” said Patty Onderko. “It was nice to have a close-by place where everyone could hang out and enjoy our dogs.”