Heaven for dogs? Check out these dog parks in Lee CountyAug 15, 2023 08:00AM ● By Ann Marie O’Phelan
A Cape Coral dog enjoys a tree give away at Rotary Park. Image courtesy of City of Cape Coral
Like people, most dogs are social beings. They enjoy a tail wag and a good run with fellow four-legged friends. Generally speaking, dogs thrive in the company of other dogs and humans. Like wolves, they have a pack mentality.
Luckily, in Southwest Florida, there is an excellent opportunity for dogs to enjoy some frolicking and fun. Mack Young, director of Lee County Parks & Recreation, explains the difference between the two types of facilities for this purpose—dog parks and dog-friendly parks:
“Dog parks offer fenced off-leash areas and other amenities, while dog-friendly parks allow on-leash walking only," he says.
Rotary Park's Wagging Tails Dog Park in Cape Coral, for example, includes a 1.25 acre fenced-in area for small and large dogs. There are also several park benches and shaded areas for owners to socialize while their pets play and interact with other dogs.
"Dog parks are a great way to reinforce your dog’s socialization, mental well-being, and physical health,” says Kathleen Locklin, Recreation Program Supervisor Rotary Park.
However, before heading to the park, Locklin explains a few important things to keep in mind. First, to access Rotary Park’s Wagging Tails Dog Park, patrons must submit a registration form, an annual $20 fee per dog, and proof of up-to-date rabies & distemper/parvo vaccinations. Secondly, ensure your dog is up to date on their vaccinations, especially puppies, who should be at least 17 weeks old and have completed their veterinarian-recommended vaccinations. Thirdly, pick up after yourself and your dog.
Additionally, make sure you know your dog well enough to know they socialize well with others and listen to you even when off-leash. Furthermore, it’s imperative to keep an eye on your dog and pay close attention to how they are interacting with other dogs and familiarize yourself with dog body language.
“Pets are not permitted on athletic fields, playgrounds, beaches, picnic areas, nature trails, or boardwalks in Cape Coral’s parks, but are allowed on leash in open areas and on park sidewalks,” reminds Locklin.
Planning your visit: Rotary Park, 5505 Rose Garden Rd, Cape Coral, 239-549-4606, capecoral.gov.
Check out these Lee County ParksNumerous Lee County parks, preserves, and centers allow for on-leash dog walking. A complete list of parks can be found at https://www.leegov.com/parks/parkfinder. For a video about Lee County Parks & Recreation dog parks, and a list of parks that allow on-leash dog walking, visit leegov.com/parks/dog-parks. Even more, parking and entrance at every dog park and dog-friendly location are free. Here are the six dog parks in Lee County that offer off-leash play:
- Barkingham Park at Buckingham Community Park, 9800 Buckingham Road
- Dog Beach, 14436 Bonita Beach Causeway
- K-9 Corral Dog Park at Estero Park, 9200 Corkscrew Palms Blvd, Estero
- Paws 4 Duty Dog Park at Veterans Park, 55 Homestead Road South
- Lehigh Acres, Pooch Park at Judd Park, 1297 Parkview Court, North Fort Myers
- Woof-A-Hatchee Dog Park at Wa-Ke Hatchee Park, 16760 Bass Road, Fort Myers
Lee County’s off-leash pet areas are sectioned off for large and small dogs. Small dogs are those under 18 inches, measured at the shoulder. Large dogs are those over 18 inches at the shoulder. Find out more at leegov.com/parks/parks/dog%20friendly.
Dog park developments on the horizon
Good news! Lake Meade, a new park slated for future development under the Parks Go Bond, will also include an off-leash dog park in North Cape Coral. In 2018, Cape Coral voters approved a $60 million expansion of the City's parks and recreation amenities. They approved a 15-year general obligation bond that will fund major parks and recreation improvements throughout the City and includes seven new neighborhood parks.
Tips for taking your pooch to the park
Before heading out with your pooch to any of Lee County's parks, Young says there are a few things to remember.
“Dogs must be accompanied by an adult and remain on leash at all times while walking in the park. They must be wearing a collar with a valid county license. Dogs are not permitted on playgrounds, ballfields, dugouts, bleachers, lakes/ponds, swimming pools, water parks, indoor buildings, areas where food is handled, and other areas with posted signs. They must not act in a threatening or menacing manner and must not be permitted to destroy park property or disturb wildlife. Lastly, pet owners must pick up their pet’s waste. Uncollected pet waste can degrade the water quality in Lee County," he said.
Something else to keep in mind is always bring a water jug and bowl.
Those without a dog and looking to adopt a canine companion should check:
- Cape Coral Animal Shelter, Cape Coral, 239-573-2002, capecoralanimalshelter.com.
- LeeLostPets.com or call 239-533-7387 (LEE-PETS). Adoption applications may be submitted online.
- Lee County Domestic Animal is located at 5600 Banner Drive, Fort Myers, next to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office off Six Mile Cypress Parkway, leegov.com/animalservices.
Ann Marie O’Phelan is a SW Florida resident and a regular contributor to TOTI Media.