Lane County dog owners have plenty of off-leash dog park options when it comes to letting their pooches run free.
And who better to explore our many dog park choices than my trusty canine interns: Huckleberry, a teddy bear-Ewok hybrid from the shelter, and Togo, an Alaskan husky with legs like stilts.
In the long shadow of Woodward and Bernstein, we three set off to investigate just what makes each local dog park special for our four-footed friends:
Wayne Morse Ranch Dog Park (595 Crest Dr.) has ample off-street parking adjacent to 28 acres of parkland and trails. The dog park is down a steep gravel path, which poses a challenge since I’m attached to sled-pulling engine Togo, but it’s worth the slog. The park spreads expansively over what was once Sen. Wayne Morse’s cow pastures, offering ample space to play in three connected fields and beautiful oak savanna vistas. In the wintertime, the lower section can be a mud pit. Rain boots advised.
Togo notes, “Mud’s not a problem, Mommy!”
About a mile north, Amazon Dog Park (29th Street and Amazon Parkway) is our go-to park, because we almost always find other dogs here, ready for action. With easy parking behind the LTD bus depot, Huckleberry and Togo know the routine, hopping out of the car with huge smiles on their doggy faces. Gravel paths here stay dry, even in winter, looping around an open field that offers some shade.
“There’s always shade under the table,” Huckleberry asserts in a voice that sounds like Eeyore. “And that’s where you’ll find old Chuck-It balls.”
Got a little dog? A few years ago, concerned dog owners fundraised to build a safe space in Amazon Dog Park’s southeast corner for small dogs to frolic. Little Dog Corner, the only designated small-dog park in the area, offers a great spot for furballs weighing under 25 pounds to cavort without fear of bruisers knocking into them.
In West Eugene, check out Candlelight Park (Royal Avenue at Throne Drive), which features two separate play fields. This can be an advantage if a couple of dogs aren’t getting along, says dog owner Kyle Lacefield, owner of an enormous great Dane, Magnus. “But dogs are super friendly when I show up,” Lacefield says.
“There are usually people here, and the park’s well maintained,” Lacefield adds. “But there’s not a lot of shade when it’s hot. And they need a light here in the wintertime.”
Huck and Togo were too busy chasing Magnus in a circle to offer comment.
In the north end, Alton Baker Dog Park (632 Day Island Road) is leafy and varied, with a pleasant path that meanders in a loop between play spaces. Located adjacent to Autzen Stadium, parking may be an issue on game days, but the rest of the time it’s pretty quiet.
Further north, Armitage Dog Park (90064 Coburg Road) inside Lane County’s Armitage Park, offers lovely trees and quiet paths.
“It’s little used,” says Andrea Graham, who’s at the park with three mixed-breed pooches: Callie, Blueberry and Archie. “We always see the same people here, and we know most of the dogs,” Graham says.
“Even at peak times, with a lot of dogs here, it’s way less than Alton Baker,” Graham says. “And I’ve never seen a dog fight here.”
The county mows Armitage Dog Park, but its gravel paths are paid for and maintained by a few private citizens, Graham says.
Because Armitage Dog Park is located in a county park, the parking lot requires a $4 day fee, or an annual County $40 parks pass. There is no off-street parking.
And in Springfield, the Jack B. Lively Memorial Dog Park (6100 Thurston Road) offers easy parking, with two separate play spaces that are exceptionally well maintained.
Finally, a new indoor dog park may join the list of Lane County’s dog parks: Eugenean Calie McVicker has set up a GoFundMe page to build an indoor facility complete with a swimming pool. McVicker says she thought of the idea after wanting a safe, algae-free place for her dog Zoey to play and swim. You can find her webpage at gofundme.com/wj44e9s.
In the meantime, visitors to any dog park are asked to observe some basic rules of decorum, from obeying scoop laws to carefully monitoring their dogs for any untoward behavioral aggression.
“No dog shall be permitted to fight, bite or bark excessively while in a designated off-leash dog area,” states the city’s off-leash park policy.
“I’m a lover, not a fighter,” says Togo, who looks like a dire wolf from Game of Thrones but has the temperament of a pot of raspberry jam.
Dogs are required to be licensed and to have received vaccinations for rabies.
“I don’t mind the shots,” Huckleberry sighs, “if it means I get a squirt of Easy Cheese.”
Huck and Togo tell me they enjoyed this assignment and are now contentedly plotting their next journalistic endeavor as food critics.