Monday, February 15, 1999

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Gail Nakasone, left, and Francis Takaba play with their
dogs and other pets in Bark Park, an increasingly popular
fenced area at Diamond Head where dogs can run free.

Puppies and pet owners
frolic at pooch park

By Harold Morse


When you enter a small fenced-in park at 18th Avenue and Diamond Head Road, you see a set of "Bark Park Rules & Regulations."

"Enter at your own risk," the sign says. Next is: "Pet owners must accept full responsibility for themselves and their pets while in park." Farther down, the sign says: "Owners must clean up."

Honolulu's first off-leash dog park opened last fall. It is the brainchild of Clark Hatch, founder of the Clark Hatch Fitness Center, which has 58 outlets including one in Honolulu.

Clark says pets need exercise, too, and the 1.46-acre park has been even more successful than he expected, with people bringing their dogs from as far as Mililani, Kailua and Kaneohe.

"The dogs sort themselves out and decide who they like and dislike and play with that group," he said.

Hatch persuaded the state to approve an agreement in 1997 for the public pet park on Fort Ruger surplus land near Diamond Head.

Garrick Goo of Kaimuki is one of those who uses it, bringing his 13-month-old beagle, Snickers.

"It's working out great," Goo said. "All the dogs like coming here, and they just drag us here to watch over them." Julie Tanabe said they've been bringing Snickers to the park since it opened.

"Actually, Snickers drank the blessing water, so he's a blessed dog," she said.

In late afternoon and early evening, there might be about 15 dogs running around and maybe 25 people at the mini-park.

"It's good," said Mark Bonner, 12, of Kaimuki, who was there with Rosie, his 2-year-old registered Dalmatian.

"I come here almost every day," he said. "It gives Rosie lots of exercise. We take her for walks too, but she needs other exercise, so we just take her to the Bark Park. And she likes playing with other dogs. I feel better here because it's fenced in."

Jennifer Liebeler brings Banjo, an 8-year-old Australian shepherd, and thinks the commute from Manoa is worth it. She said the park is "the nicest dog park I've ever seen" and much better than one she used to frequent in Los Angeles. "The people here are much nicer," she said. "The dogs here are nicer too."

Deanna Lee of Alewa Heights appreciates giving Nalu, her 3-year-old mixed shepherd/golden retriever, a chance to run around unleashed in a fenced area and see other dogs.

"There isn't any place else," she said. It just needs more grass, she said of the dusty park.

A new sprinkler system now on hand should help. Hatch expects sprinkling to start before the month is out. "We are going to plant seed as well," he said.

Park lovers are advised to mark April 10, from 3:30 p.m. into the evening, on their calendars. "We are going to sponsor a fund-raiser with a kind of a picnic in the park for dogs and owners," Hatch said. "We'll provide the food, but we'll have a donation markup."

Funds raised will go to People and Pet Park Inc., the official park nonprofit entity, he said.

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