One of the downsides of living in the city and being a dog owner is the inability to let your dog run. This shows every time I go out to the country for a weekend, as Aria tries to spend most of her time outdoors, off-leash, in a large backyard that is filled with squirrels, birds and any other creature that happens to be "passing through". Then through my search of local parks to check out, I came across Battle Creek Regional Park, located in a suburban town called Maplewood, MN, about 20 minutes from the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. Upon arrival, I quickly found out they also have a fenced-in dog park.
This is not Aria's first rodeo at a fenced-in dog park, once we are out of the car she quickly surveys the area and is immediately drawn to the fenced in area and the many dogs that are dragging their owners towards it. She dances around the car and whimpers with excitement and anticipation. We walk the paved path up to the first entrance.
Once we enter, there is a small holding area for the dogs, here is where you close and latch the door behind you before opening the second door that gives access to the park. This is to prevent any dogs from getting out and running off. The holding area is also where you remove the dog's leash upon arrival and then re-leash when leaving.
Aria's excitement can't be contained as she lets out several barks to let the other dogs know she is here and ready to meet them. The door is barely open before she squeezes through and begins running towards the other dogs barking with every stride. She is a talker but basically, that is all she is, all talk. Once a dog turns to come towards her she instantly zips her lips and stays still, then once they move on she's back to barking and running around them. I'm sure if she could talk she would explain this to me, but for now, I just shake my head and continue on the path.
A short distance from the entrance is a small stream that flows through the park and into the many ponds and swamps that are both within the park and surrounding it. To make it easier for everyone they have build two small bridges for you to cross over; one is made of metal and the other wood. I've seen dogs not enjoy the sound and feel of the metal bridge and either go through the water or over to the wooden one to cross over.
All the trails in the park are unpaved and mostly dirt with a range of easy to moderate depending on the hill and time of year you visit. The park is open year-round and there is enough of an incline that makes walking it very tricky once the snow has fallen. As you can see, there are a lot of trees in the park giving the feeling that you are walking through the woods and not a park. There are plenty of birds, squirrels, and chipmunks to help entertain your pooch with no worry that they are going to be hurt as the entire area is fenced in.
Aria remains close but not too close as we continue on the trails and break away from the dogs and do some walking on our own. Her barking becomes less and she takes in all the scents and sounds the park has to offer. Sounds of other dogs in the distance has her turning and running ahead further to see what is going on but stopping and looking back to make sure I'm still following. As we turn onto one path Aria quickly runs ahead knowing where the path is going to lead and the sounds of other dogs become louder with every step we take.
A lot of the trails in the park will lead you to a large area that has been cleared away to allow dogs room to play with each other as well as enjoy some fetch or Frisbee time. There are also picnic tables here for people to sit and relax while their dogs enjoy the open field and some much needed time off leash. Most of the dogs I have encountered here are well-behaved and the owners are never far away. This is not always the case, depending on location, but I'm happy to say this one does follow the rules and the park is kept very clean.
There are trash receptacles located throughout the park and on the trails. They also provide bags for you to use and water stations during the hot season are also located on the trails. It is near impossible to get lost especially in a fenced in area but if you feel you are unsure of your location there are maps of the park located on the main trails. I say main trails because there are plenty that goes off the main one, through the woods which gives Aria more of an opportunity to chase some squirrels up a few trees.
There are two entrances to the dog park, one that is located off of Upper Afton and the other is off of Lower Afton. The one off of Upper Afton seems to be the more popular one and once you enter the park the area allows more room for the dogs to greet each other, where it is basically woods that surrounds the other entrance and if there are a lot of dogs it may seem a little claustrophobic. The beauty of having two entrances is you can come in at one entrance and leave from the other.
Just outside the entrance there is a paved path that goes around the park and is a connector between the two parking lots; this path is also popular for bikers and joggers, I've done this routine once where I came in one, let Aria use the pet park, and then leave out of the other and walked her back on-leash back to the car on the paved trail. It is a nice walk that also includes water holes and is surrounded by large trees making you feel like you are still in the woods.
I've only done this once because the look Aria gave me when I put her leash on and walked all the way back to the car was one I don't ever want to see again. So now our loop consists of staying inside the park and letting her run until her heart is content. It is a relaxing walk that anyone will enjoy and the park is always busy but if you're walking the trail you don't even realize it.
As far as dog parks go, this one has been my favorite. There are so many different trails to walk, areas to explore and it is well maintained. I can see why this is a popular place for people to bring their pets and best of all, it is free of charge.
For more information please visit http://www.battlecreekdogpark.org/. Enjoy
You don't have to go far to have fun. Here are a few places I visit when I'm not driving across country or exploring the Rustic Roads.