by Stacy Conroy

Dogs need a lot of exercise, especially large breeds that often have an abundance of energy. Many city dwellers find they are hard pressed to give their canine companions the opportunity to burn energy due to time constraints and lack of dog-friendly parks in Milwaukee. Like people, dogs can become overweight couch potatoes or destructive delinquents when not given proper outlets. Dogs also need socialization with other dogs to be their happiest. In the wild, they are pack animals and are always in groups. It is their nature to live and roam together. Off-Leash Dog ParKFortunately, there is one established dog park in Milwaukee County where dogs are allowed to legally exercise and socialize off-leash. This park is located north of Good Hope Road and west of Hwy 45 (see map). For the past 3 years this park has given hundreds of dogs a chance to run and play together as hard and long as their owners will allow. Owners don’t have to worry about a citation from police, or that other non-dog owners will be angered or made fearful by their presence. They can network and make friends with other dog owners and give their dogs a taste of the good life, to run free in the grass, through the trees and frolic with fellow dogs. The park was established in 1999 when a group of citizens got together and formed a non-profit organization, called Partners In Parks, in order to secure land to be used solely for dog exercise. This lead the group on a long and somewhat difficult journey working with the Milwaukee County Board to convince them that the dog park could be a successful way to use the land and that volunteers could be responsible for most of the upkeep. The group has also been involved in helping citizens in other areas of Milwaukee County to try to establish new dog parks that would benefit a particular neighborhood. Unfortunately they have not yet been successful in getting new sites approved. Established dog parks are plentiful in Chicago due to the Chicago Parks District’s written plan for community members who wish to establish a dog park in their neighborhood. Their plan gives clear guidelines on what the community must do in order to determine and get approval for a particular site: gather the support from the surrounding community, establish a budget, and acquire funding to create and maintain the park as well as explain how they would deal with any problems that arise on the park property once it has been established as a legal off-leash dog exercise area. It can take a year or more for Chicago citizens to establish a new dog exercise area, but the requirements are in place and can be met with dedication on the part of the community. Milwaukee’s dog park is a beautiful piece of county land that has trails, hills, trees and water. Give your dog a glimpse of heaven by allowing him or her to run and frolic with other dogs at the park during the week or on the more busy weekends. Park hours are from 7 a.m. until dark (around 8 p.m.) with considerably shorter hours in the winter. Dogs must be on-leash from your car until entering the park. Dog owners are responsible for picking up waste after a dog eliminates and properly disposing of it in provided receptacles. Visit to see photos of dogs having fun at the park or to find out how to volunteer or contribute to the dog park. Voice messages for Partners In Parks can be left at (414) 319-5975.

I am appealing to neighborhood dog owners to join me in an effort to identify a possible site, in or near Riverwest, and create a proposal for an off-leash dog exercise area in the coming months. If you live in Riverwest or the East Side of Milwaukee and would be interested in helping create more space for dogs to legally exercise, please contact Stacy Conroy at or leave a voice message at the Riverwest Currents office (414)265-7278.

UPDATE: Grassroots Dog Park Advocate Group Formed Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – Issue 9 – October 2002