Leash-free park in Bloomington a ‘dog’s life’

Fenced-in area allows people to bring dogs to play


Alberto D. Morales

Hidden in the back roads of Bloomington lays an area for dogs – somewhat of a safe haven for "man's best friend" and pet owners alike.

Bloomington Dog Park, located on the corner of North Old State Road 37 and North Dunn Street, is a fenced, grassy park with plenty of room for dogs to get off their leashes and make friends with other sniffing, panting and playful pooches.

The park has a free gravel parking area where owners can leave their cars as they let their dogs roam free to swim in a runoff water pool that pours in from Griffy Lake. Owners also have the option of strolling along the lake and letting their dogs go for a swim to cool themselves off.

Andy and Maggie Dippell of Indianapolis said they bring their dog Lily to the park whenever they can.

When the Dippells lived in Terre Haute, they loved the dog park so much that they would drive for an hour just to take Lily there. Now that they live in Indianapolis, they still take the hour drive to the dog park.

"She loves it! She loves it enough that we would drive an hour just to get here so she can play with other dogs," Maggie Dippell said.

Andy Dippell said they prefer the drive to the dog park in Bloomington since they would usually have to pay for a smaller, more crowded dog park in Indianapolis. Along with the friendly dogs, the Dippells say the people at the park are friendly, too. The pleasant atmosphere is one of the reasons they have been coming to the park since they got Lily from the Humane Society in Terre Haute three years ago.

"The people who come here are generally laidback, and their dogs are well-behaved," Andy Dippell said. "(At) the other dog parks you have to pay 50 bucks to get in, and those are usually all full-bred dogs – Lily doesn't get looked down upon here because she's a mutt."

Patrick Kitchens of Bloomington and his dog Leroy, a 1-year-old chocolate labrador retriever, come to the park mostly for Leroy's "champion swimming," Kitchens said.

Kitchens said the dog park is special because it's so close to the urban living area. He said he loves letting Leroy off his leash to interact with other dogs for at least an hour in either the field, the trails alongside the lake or just in the lake itself.

"Because he's so compulsive about his tennis ball, all he wants to do is just retrieve the tennis ball and go swimming," Kitchens said.

David Jay Sparrow, his wife Sarry Anne and their 2-year-old son Jack have been bringing their 5-year-old yellow labrador retriever Colombia to the park for three years.

"I've never been in a town that has anything quite like this, where they actually have a reserved place for dogs to do this – so that's a pretty special thing." David Jay Sparrow said.

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