Dayton’s First Official Dog Park Part of Ongoing Volunteer Efforts

Owners know that if you ask your dog, “Do you want to go to the park?” he or she will not only loudly bark the equivalent of “You bet your Beggin’ Strips I do!” but grab the leash and beat you to the Subaru.

Thanks to the work of a handful of Woolpert employees and the dedicated volunteers who live near Highland Park, dog owners on Dayton, Ohio’s east side now have a destination to take their four-legged friends.

The Highland Dog Park was part of a larger, ongoing effort to restore Highland Park, a 12-acre area east of Steve Whalen Boulevard and north of Wyoming Street, and Cleveland Park, which sits about a half-mile to the southeast.

From March to December of last year, dozens of volunteers contributed more than 600 combined hours collecting garbage and planting trees—30 saplings between 8 and 14 feet tall, to be exact. The volunteers mulched the playground area to prevent it from flooding when it rains. New basketball hoops and netting for soccer goals were installed, and a recycling program was added and is being maintained by the warriors who volunteer for the Linden Heights Neighborhood Association. Other tasks have included painting over graffiti, clearing honeysuckle and painting 226 paw prints along a 1-mile trek that now connects the two parks.

Many people and organizations deserve gratitude and recognition as the restoration work continues at the two parks. Woolpert volunteers helped design the dog park, which is situated near Highland Park’s basketball court and the soccer field. The firm, which has been headquartered in Dayton since 1911, also donated $2,500 and a celebration banner to support the effort.

Lambco, a general contractor in Dayton, provided a fair price and installed fencing for the dog park, which features two fenced-in spaces for large and small dogs: 18,000 square feet for Labradors and the like and 8,000 square feet for Yorkshire terriers and other small breeds.

The city of Dayton worked with volunteers and changed the ordinance allowing for an off-leash dog park and is providing a $5,000 grant that will pay for a nature play area slated to be installed this year at Highland Park. A special thanks also go out to Connie Nisonger, a Dayton community specialist, who helped navigate City Hall to make this project happen.


This work would not have been possible without the leadership of Mike Schommer, president of the Walnut Hills Neighborhood Association. In addition to countless hours of physical labor, Mike helped secure the $8,000 grant from Public Health—Dayton & Montgomery County and its Creating Healthy Communities group.

Other notable contributions came from the Northmont Sign Company, which contributed to the trail signs, and Dayton’s Original Pizza Factory (thanks for the yummy lunches!) Wagtown, a local nonprofit organization working to make the community more dog friendly, also supported the project. Wagtown also is working to create a dog-friendly route connecting Webster Station and Water Street to the Oregon District. The nation’s first Wagtown Dog Trail and Wagtown Barking Spots are expected to be completed this summer.

Volunteers in the Linden Heights and Walnut Hills neighborhoods are committed to the ongoing restoration and improvement of local parks. In addition to the nature play area, plans are in place to add a bike hub, complete the walking path through the Urban Meadows project and remove more of the pesky invasive honeysuckle bushes at Cleveland Park in 2020.

Future projects at Highland Park include restoring the parking lot, creating new entryways, and adding signage and a basketball court. There also are soccer fields that need to be restored and more trees that need to be planted.

Starting this spring, we plan to have volunteer opportunities every month until fall. It’s a great way to get outside and enjoy nicer weather than we’re currently having, while improving the community. I hope you can join us this year in making a difference for Dayton east-siders. Let me know if you’re interested in participating.

Karl Leibfacher

Karl Leibfacher is a geospatial technician who has worked at Woolpert for more than 12 years.