Puppy Pit Stop dog park to open Wednesday in downtown Pensacola

Jake Newby Pensacola News JournalPublished 7:00 AM EDT Aug 25, 2020Pups across Pensacola rejoice — the lo

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Pups across Pensacola rejoice — the long-planned Puppy Pit Stop in downtown Pensacola is ready for those prancing paws. 

The new dog park on the Romana Street side of the Jefferson Street Parking Garage officially opens Wednesday after close to a year's worth of planning. A pet project of the Downtown Improvement Board, the small park is fit with artificial turf that encompasses the entire sidewalk area adjacent to the garage. 

"It's a great little detail, especially for those that live close by in Southtowne, or anywhere else, walking their dogs," said DIB Chairman Michael Carro on Monday. "It also will quite honestly help for dog owners who truly understand the downtown landscape. They'll head here, and that should help reduce the dog waste on the streets. So hopefully it'll help keep our streets cleaner as well."

For a park without a fence, foliage and bushes will serve as a barrier between Romana Street and the park. Amenities at the leashed park include a self-draining dog bowl that's refilled by stepping on a button above the bowl, a leash holder, a bench for dog owners, multiple fake fire hydrants and waste removal supplies. 

The idea for the Puppy Pit Stop is rooted in the DIB's desire to turn "dead spaces" of public property into viable, productive areas for the downtown walking crowd.

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Carro said Monday that the strip of concrete and grass, which stretches on for a few hundred feet, was otherwise not utilized in any form or fashion. 

"We certainly want to offer amazing dog friendly areas, so how can we accomplish something that many of them really, really want and like, along with something that is also beautiful?" Carro said. "And in a place that is completely unusable. This is simply a bed. So we turned this into an active space. It's a mini park." 

He said the board is always looking to turn "dead space" into micro parks, a goal that was accomplished with the Puppy Pit Stop, thanks in large part to Jerry Pate Design and Executive Landscaping. 

"Think about the alleyway on the other side of this parking garage. It was an inactive, ugly space and now it's a beautiful space where we will incorporate art," Carro said, referring to the recently revamped breezeway leading into The Wine Bar on Palafox. "So we're looking for little areas like this that can be converted into micro parks, and things of that nature."

Leashes are heavily encouraged while at the park, as Carro pointed out that no true physical barrier would stop a dog from roaming or running into Romana Street. There's no rule book, per say, for the park, but Carro did add that it's best suited for smaller dogs. 

"It's not a really large park," Carro said. "Clearly it's not a large Great Dane, St. Bernard style park. And it's really not a place for dogs to run free. Really it's just a nice park for their owner and their dog to kind of hangout, and maybe do their business, and enjoy themselves." 

The board budgeted $50,000 for the park and completed construction in phases in 2020. The final phase of the Puppy Pit Stop will be the addition of an awning, which will cover the entirety of the space. 

Weather permitting, Pensacola dog owners are welcome to come christen the park between 4 and 6 p.m. Wednesday for the official grand opening event. Hosted by the DIB, the event will feature a pet supply drive in partnership with the Pensacola Humane Society to provide crucial supplies for its shelter animals.

For more information, visit the Facebook page for the event, which just so happens to fall on International Dog Day. 

Jake Newby can be reached at jnewby@pnj.com or 850-435-8538.