Public dog park at Fort Harrison SP honors DNR K-9 teams

Public dog park at Fort Harrison SP honors DNR K-9 teams

The first dog park in an Indiana state park was dedicated Wednesday in honor of DNR Law Enforcement K-9 teams who serve and protect Indiana’s citizens and natural resources.

An honor guard with police officers from DNR Law Enforcement, Indiana State Police, Lawrence Police Department, Marion County Sheriff’s Department and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department presided over the ceremony at Fort Harrison State Park Dog Park in Indianapolis.

“We’re proud that this dog park will not only offer a new recreational opportunity, but also raise awareness about the contributions that canine conservation officers have made in keeping Hoosiers safe and solving crimes,” said Lt. Col. Steve Hunter of Indiana DNR Law Enforcement.

The park opened Labor Day weekend with a grassy 1.3-acre play area called Herrin Hill. The dedication ceremony also marked the opening of a second 3.5-acre play area called Platoon Run with a mix of grass and trees. In 2014, the final play area, Brigade Landing, is expected to open and offer 5 acres of woods for exploration.

It is unlikely that DNR will develop dog parks at other state parks, but the urban nature of Fort Harrison and the isolation of this piece of land from the rest of the park made it an ideal location.

“We see lots of people walking their dogs on trails in the park, and know that dog parks are popular and successful in urban park systems elsewhere,” said Dan Bortner, director of DNR Division of State Parks & Reservoirs.

Fort Harrison State Park Dog Park is in a gated area accessible only by driving to 8725 Fall Creek Road on the north side of the state park, north of Fall Creek. It is not reachable from the main park entrance.

To use the dog park, dog owners must purchase an annual pass and collar tag from the park office. Tags will cost $75 per dog. Tags for the remainder of 2013 will be prorated at $30 per dog. About 200 tags have been issued already.

Dog owners must provide copies of current vaccination records for rabies, parvo, distemper and bordatella and must complete and sign the dog park annual membership application, which is at stateparks.IN.gov/2982.htm <http://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/2982.htm> . The website also includes additional information on the dog park and answers to frequently asked questions.

Established in 1999, the DNR Law Enforcement K-9 program has been used to find lost hunters and lost children, and to sniff out evidence in criminal cases ranging from murder to poaching to illegal ginseng harvesting.

The program currently consists of seven conservation officers and their partners, six Labrador retrievers and one Airedale. Fifteen dogs have retired from the program. Two of the founding dogs, Journey and Judge, are honored in memorial plaques on park benches.