Here’s a relatively new concern among dog owners: toxic blue-green algae. Blooms have caused swimming bans in lakes in various parts of the country. Last week the ASPCA issued an alert to pet owners to keep dogs from drinking from or swimming in stagnant ponds and lakes. And this week Palm Coast government fenced off the pond at the dog park at Holland Park as it tests the water there and prepares to put up signs cautioning dog owners against letting their pets go in the water.
But the fencing has raised its own set of problems, with dog owners complaining that it doesn’t just fence off the pond but most of the area where their dogs could run around, while creating a maze around the shaded gazebo. Some dog owners are also questioning how they could bring their pets to the park only to keep policing them from going into the water.
“No one is going to come if they have signs that say ‘don’t go in,’” says Emily Berke, who has been using the dog park for many years and who maintains a mailing list of dog-park users in Palm Coast. “I want to ask these people, how do you stop a dog from going in the water? A lot of us come to the park so we don’t have to yell at our dogs–out, out, out, no, no, no. They really need to talk to people who have dogs.”
The temporary fencing at Holland Park mazes around different parts. There’s fencing that cuts off the vast area of the pond and its slopes, where dogs like to run around. And there’s labyrinthine fencing around the gazebo protecting newly sodded ground.
The fencing off of the pond wasn’t prompted by reports of sick dogs locally, city spokesman Mike Schottey said, but as a caution. “Nothing has happened in Palm Coast, it’s a retention pond so dogs shouldn’t be in that or drinking it anyway,” he said. It hasn’t helped that the fountain in the pond has been turned off while construction proceeds at nearby Pavilion 3. It’ll be turned back on at the end of construction. The pond looks very murky, parts of its rims thick with that pea-green scum that could signal the presence of algae.
“Once power is restored and the fountain is turned back on, the temporary fencing will be removed,” Lauren Johnston, the city’s parks and recreation director, said. “Prior to removing the fencing, the water quality will be tested and those results will be made available to the public. Signs will also go up that state ‘Not intended for swimming. This retention pond is for stormwater purposes.’ We are looking into removing the temporary fencing near the newly installed sod hopefully by the end of the week.”
Heightened concern about the algae’s effect on dogs appears to have started with an August 12 New York Times story that nationalized the death of three dogs that had gone swimming in a pond in North Carolina earlier this month (Abby, Izzy and Harpo). The Times story reported on dogs falling ill and dying in many places around the country after being exposed to algae in stagnant waters. “The health threats to animals range from skin rashes to neurological problems,” the paper reported. “The blooms can release toxins that can cause liver damage, lead to respiratory paralysis or produce other fatal conditions.” The story lists incidents of dog illnesses in Austin, Texas, and Marietta, Ga. The ASPCA alert followed four days later.
Berke says she knows pet owners locally who have seen their dogs fall ill. “My dog loves the water,” she said of Shadow, her nearly 6-year-old shepherd and great dane mix, who lolled about her at the park Tuesday afternoon. “Quite a few love the water but our dogs started getting sick. Quite a few of them stopped coming because we can’t afford the vet bills.”
She said dogs have been taken, ill, to Flagler Veterinary Hospital. However, a doctor at the hospital Tuesday evening said there’d been no reported cases of illnesses due to blue-green algae. “We haven’t seen any cases between the few of us,” he said.
Likewise at another local animal hospital: “So far we haven’t seen any problems here,” Katie Brown, a veterinary technician at Dixie Commons Animal Hospital in Bunnell.
Palm Coast’s dog park has a loyal, at times ardent following. Its users were often before the city council several years ago, before the renovation of the park, demanding better amenities. The dog park at the time was a frequent flood zone. The city responded by enlarging the dog park and adding the retention pond, with the small-dog park at the south end. The small-dog park has no access to the pond. This time, dog owners are upset that the city went ahead with its fencing and potential signs without consulting with the dog owners first.
“Once again, the city of Palm Coast has taken action on an issue without any input from those most affected,” Kathleen Warner said. “How hard would it have been to distribute flyers at the Holland Dog park before initiating this project?”
Stephen Tollin, a small-dog owner, has questioned the overall layout since the renovation. “I am lucky to have a small dog so let me say that if I had a large dog I would not utilize that area since I can only see problems,” Tollin said. “How safe is the water, do I want to transport a wet dog in my car and why is the largest area in the big dog area the water feature? It is a really beautiful setting but in my estimation, not a practical layout to start with and now with the barriers up it seems the city is scrambling to patch up a bad original plan.” He said there’s still a lack of shade for people and dogs in the small-dog area.
“If the pond is dangerous, by all means, maintain the fencing as is,” Jim Torres said. “No fencing should prevent the dogs from accessing the grass.”
Johnston said the city will be contacting residents and users of the park with a survey “on how they feel about the pond closure, and the alternatives for a permanent solution in the facility,” she said. “We will also try to reeducate the public with meet and greets and conduct community outreach to local vets and groups to discuss hazards of standing water.”
“The fence will be removed the signage will be in place, the pump will be back up and working,” Schottey said, adding this rule of thumb: “If you’re not going to swim in the water, your dog shouldn’t be in the water.”
It was not what Berke wanted to hear. “Wow,” she said. “What a horrible thing to say. I mean, we don’t go in the water. We know that. You can’t tell the dogs that.” She would not be opposed to a permanent fence, as long as it was strictly around the pond–not the kind of fence that currently cuts off the entire pond area, reducing the dog park to a small zone. Otherwise, she said, “it’s not fun to go to the park. It’s like going to the kids’ park and saying no, don’t do this.”
First of all if you don not have 100% control of where your dog goes or what your dog does than ,YOU SHOULD NOT use the dog park. It is not the city of Palm Coast’s job to train your dog. A dog that does not obey its master has no place at a public dog park.
David S. says
They need to close that damn place down…..
frank basile says
So we don’t put the fence around the pond but block off all the grass and the pond? Who is the knucklehead who directed this?
If you let your dog run loose and there is no fence to protect your animal which it appears can be harmful right. I sure wouldn’t want my animal even near the park until the coast is clear. Thank you City of Palm Coast for protecting our local animals.
Rosie O'Donnell says
Dogs take care of their business along the banks of the pond. After rain falls the water collects and concentrates the animal waste in the pond. That is kind of gross. Whoever designed it should be forced to sit in the corner with a dunce cap, just sayin’
Phyllis kramer says
I don’t understand why everyone is upset. It’s only temporary and in the interest of safety for our pets.
Mr. Retallick says
My question which everyone has failed to ask or mention, the spokesman Mike Schottey says “it’s a retention pond, and they shouldn’t be swimming in or drinking from it anyway”; so what in God’s name is it doing in the middle of a dog park? Some dogs are natural water rats. You try to keep a Bay Retriever out of water. It seems like an uneducated, apathetic comment and in whole an ignorant decision to build it just to not have it be properly maintained.
Our City Parks and Recreations is doing all they can to prevent that those loved dogs will get sick!! That should be seriously appreciated specially to our excellent Parks and recreations director Loreen Johnston, Manager Mr. Morton and Council, as they are trying hard to resolve a complex issue.
The re -sodding was probably scheduled well before the pond concern contamination with toxic algae if so, came about as takes some planning to organize the labor into our scheduled work from our other many city parks and further more important yet schedule the sod, seeds and other materials delivery for the re sodding work to be successfully completed. Maybe our city could plan a better natural design of water purification for that original retention pond that is now used as a splash dog pond so enjoyed by our city fur babies. Maybe our Holland park dog pond should be layered with sand, small size river stone or concrete and fitted with a water purification system. All is costly I know but maybe we all dog owners should start a fundraiser to help our city with the cost? Also very important as looks like witnessed by some, dogs loose pooing in the ponds edges, that should be responsibly addressed by the owners at once when it takes place in order to prevent contamination. I have seeing myself some not picked up dog waste inside the dog park every time I used to take my dog to the small dogs section. Maybe surveillance cameras should be installed and users noticed of it at the gates. Working together we can achieve our goals and our dogs will benefit with positive safe splashing results while we monitor them and socialize with their owners. https://www.nar.realtor/blogs/spaces-to-places/what-makes-a-great-park-for-dogs-and-people
Jim O says
Certainly looks attractive… I am sure it will only be up for 2 to 3 years since we county moves at the speed of light.
CB from PC says
Dave, are you saying that 100% less than obedient dogs should not be at the dog park?
What if they were raised in a discipline deprived environment
without access to the same opportunities as their better behaved canines?
Sounds like you have profiled for exclusion a whole group of dogs whose only crime is coming from an economically disadvantaged background.
A classic case of canine racism.
Dog owners, if you cant control your dogs actions while they are off the leash. Like to keep them out of water or away from other dogs. Then the dog park is not for you. Control your animals or stay out!
Dave I guess your not a dog owner. Dogs go to the park to be off leashed and run, play, roll around with other dogs, chase balls, wrestle and just be a dog. The city did not offer any drinking water features for the dogs like the fountain they had in the old dog park. They offered spigots enclosed behind the entrance gates. Pet owners do bring our own bowls and buckets to hydrate our dogs to only have them picked up and thrown away by city workers. Our chairs , rakes and other things have been thrown away also.
And we have had fundraisers and contributed to the dog park on many occasions. A group of us had raised money and paid for the bark mulch that was laid at the old dog park. We had meetings and offered to pay for trees, umbrellas and other things to provide shade in the small dog park only to be denied by the city, because of liability reasons. We were told we would be notified and included in the future design of the dog parks before they were built and they never included us. Any sensible dog owner would of let them know that the park had many flaws and the pond was going to raise problems. And I know if the city would like to include us in future discussions we would be happy to participate.
Cookie Erickson says
Totally agree with Mr. Retallick….
As an owner of a lab/terrier dog who loves the water and loves to run iI refuse to take her to the large dog park because of the unsafe water in that pond. I am forced to go later in the evening to let her into the small dog park to exercise when all the small ones are gone, God knows ya don’t go into the small dog park when some of the nastiest people I’ve ever encountered are chatting while their little dogs just sit. How about adding a dry large dog park behind the right ball field, there’s a nice chunk of property without stealing from the two soccer fields. Since they say its not a retention pond….haaaa haaa why not fill it in? Not sure what the answer is but that pond needs to go!
Emily Berke says
What an ignorant comment I agree with Sue.