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Detroit Gets Its First Dog Park

Posted: June 25, 2014, 10:55 a.m. EDT

By Clay Jackson

True blue Detroiters love the Motor City, although some see opportunity where others see ruin.

Take the Detroit Dog Park, a non-profit organization made up of Detroit dog owners, whose members saw their vision of a no-leash dog park in Detroit materialize earlier this year, as a vacant lot blossomed into the PetSmart P.U.P.’s Detroit Dog Park.

Originally, Detroit Dog Park began a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign to generate the funds necessary to build the dog park.

But then, PetSmart stepped in and donated a portable pop-up, or P.U.P., dog park kit to Detroit Dog Park.

"The PetSmart P.U.P. will provide the pet parents of downtown Detroit with a much-needed place to let their pets run and play while improving the community by repurposing vacant land,” said David Lenhardt, president and chief executive officer of PetSmart.

 Dog Park
While intended as a temporary pop-up dog park, Detroit Dog Park and the city of Detroit are thinking of making the PetSmart P.U.P.’s Detroit Dog Park permanent. The Michigan Central Station, which was Detroit’s passenger rail depot from 1913 until 1988, is in the background.

The final partner in the dog park project was the city itself, which helped Detroit Dog Park find an ideal vacant property, formerly a children’s playground in the historic Corktown neighborhood, on which to plat the dog park.

Because of a variety of factors, Detroit’s population has been in a free fall from 1.8 million in 1950 to 700,000 in 2013, creating a threadbare look, where abandoned homes, factories and vacant lots are becoming the rule rather than the exception.

But grassroots groups like Detroit Dog Park are finding novel ways to repurpose some of the city’s former industrial landscape, including a growing urban farming movement. 

"Detroit Dog Park is thrilled to partner with PetSmart and the city of Detroit to build the city’s first official dog park,” said Mary Lorene Carter, president of Detroit Dog Park.

"With so much vacant land in the city, we are pleased to put Macomb Playlot back to use as a park for dogs and their people,” she added.

PetSmart Gives Back, a community relations program, donated the P.U.P. kit, which came in a shipping container like those seen on the decks of container ships, to Detroit Dog Park.

Inside the container there was 340 feet of fencing, three Oops clean-up Stations, three moveable backless benches and a storage unit.

The container doubles as the park’s point of entry and exit, with lighting on and inside that is powered by a solar panel on the roof of the container.

Detroit Dog Park will use the Kickstarter funds it raised to manage and improve the dog park.

The new park is free and gives Corktowners and other Detroiters a fenced 10,000-square-foot space for their pets to safely enjoy and is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

For information, visit or

"The good work Detroit Dog Park and PetSmart have done with the city is another example of how we can truly meet our residents’ needs,” said Lisa Howze, director of government affairs at the city of Detroit.

"We are excited for this park and look forward to our residents using it for years to come.”

 Dog Park 2
With plenty of volunteers on hand, it took only three days to set up the PetSmart P.U.P.’s Detroit Dog Park. The white container the P.U.P. contents came in serves as the park’s point of entry and exit and can be seen in the background next to the telephone pole.


 Like the city, Detroit Dog Park is planning on the dog park to be a fixture in its Corktown neighborhood for the foreseeable future.

"While the concept of the pop-up implies temporariness, said Megha Satyanaranaya, Detroit Dog Park board member, "this dog park will be permanent, and we have adjusted the fencing and other fixtures to make it so.”

As far as the lot itself is concerned, "We have not discussed buying it or having it donated at this time,” she said.

There are two other PetSmart P.U.P.s in the country, both located in Phoenix, where PetSmart is based. 

PetSmart hopes to bring the P.U.P. to four more U.S. communities by the end of 2014, but specific locations have not yet been finalized.

"At PetSmart, we believe in enriching people’s lives through the power of pets, and this is centered on giving back to the communities where we all live and work,” Lenhardt said.

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