Galveston City leaders should find a way to accommodate the desire among West End residents for a dog park convenient to their neighborhoods.
Dog parks, where pets can run around off the leash and interact with others of their kind, have become the fastest-growing type of park in the country, eclipsing facilities such as play areas for children, splash pads and golf courses, according to several recent studies.
Cities that are spending relatively more of their parks and recreation money on dog parks are responding to growing market demand, and it’s one that Galveston shouldn’t take lightly.
For one thing, more and more Americans are joining the ranks of pet owners. Pet ownership in general has rocketed, and dog ownership has grown by almost 30 percent in the past 10 or so years, according to pet industry market research.
About 60 million U.S. households included at least one dog at the end of 2017, according to the North American Insurance Association’s market research. “At least one” is an understatement, because those 60 million households contained almost 90 million dogs, according to the association.
More importantly, perhaps, is that more people of all sorts are adding dogs to their lives — retiring baby boomers are filling their empty nests with dogs, childless millennials are going to the dogs, and dog ownership apparently is on the rise among people of every race and economic group.
Meanwhile, more and more people are living in places with small yards and in cities with strict leash laws, both of which are especially true in Galveston.
All that together means that a dollar spent on a dog park is probably going to serve a larger section of the tax-paying public than a dollar spent on just about anything else.
The city has dog play areas at Menard and Lindale parks, both of which are east of 61st Street.
Meanwhile, many of the young professionals and downsized retirees living here and with a dog or two are living in apartments and the like west of 61st Street.
Some residents have discussed turning part or all of Jones Park, Jones Drive and 71st Street, into a dog park. The city in 2017 proposed selling this property, which has been plagued with drainage problems, but voters declined the suggestion in a narrow vote.
The city should seriously consider doing that. It also should consider that dog parks are among the things that people look for when they are deciding whether they want to live in a town or not.
• Michael A. Smith