City Bark fundraiser helps keep up home away from home for canines

If a dog had designed Bourbon Street, it would probably look a lot like NOLA City Bark. And just like there’s only one Bourbon Street, there’s no other dog park quite like City Bark.

For New Orleans’ four- legged residents, nothing compares to the city’s only official dog park when it comes time to break away from the leash, meet a few new friends and maybe, just maybe, get a little bit crazy.

“When we started looking at creating the park back in 2007, we knew we wanted something with a truly unique New Orleans feel,” said NOLA City Bark Founding President Jackie Shreves. “We were all still recovering from Hurricane Katrina and we thought City Park – and all of New Orleans – deserved so much more than a chain link fence.”

From the second you hit the “Howdy Gates,” City Bark’s 4.6 acres is pure pooch paradise – with separate play areas for big and small dogs that boast everything from agility equipment and water features, to an event lawn and a quarter-mile walking trail.

But with more than 2,200 members and a gate that’s accessed more than 2,000 times a week, fees can’t come close to covering either wear and tear or upgrades. For this, NOLA City Bark relies on 101 Donations – a biannual fundraiser.

City Bark will hold its third 101 Donations fundraiser on Saturday, co-chaired by Shreves and Sue Guarisco. Patrons will gather from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at City Park’s Arbor Room to enjoy live music from The Fleas and The Prescriptions, along with food, dessert and drinks, including margaritas by The Velvet Cactus and daiquiris by Louisiana Specialty Drinks.

“This year, we truly have an incredible silent auction,” Shreves said. “I was blown away by the generosity of this city.”

Tickets are $101 per person. The goal is to raise $60,000 during the evening — money that will go to much-needed upgrades or repairs on the park’s sod, sand pits and waste cans, as well as various structural improvements, including the addition of a walkway and gazebo in the small dog area.

Shreves says it’s critical to maintain the city’s only official dog park, as fees to use the park are kept affordable.

Since opening in March 2010, City Bark has charged a permit fee — $43 for the year for up to three dogs and $38 for City Park members — for park access. Shreves says this serves many purposes, one of the central being safety.

“By having a key card access system we can insure that every dog is spayed or neutered and vaccinated,” she said. “And if there’s ever a problem dog, we can take care of it. We wanted New Orleans to set a new standard for dog parks and we have. I’ve had people from at least five different states asking us for advice on how to create a park like ours.”

The annual permit fees also serve to help with the maintenance of the park — from daily trash pickup and concrete washing to cleaning out the water fountains. But having a dog park is about more than its amenities.

“It’s really a quality-of-life issue,” she said. “If you look at all the other major cities in this country — from New York to Houston — you’ll find that every one of them has multiple dog parks. It’s a feature that people have come to expect.”

Shreves’ views are backed up by hard evidence. In fact, there are currently more than 1,200 dog parks, and the number of parks has grown in five years by a staggering 34 percent – compared to just a three percent growth in parks for the two legged. This isn’t surprising, since according to a recent report from the Humane Society of the United States, 46 percent of U.S. households own at least one dog. This means there are now officially more households with dogs than children.

Some of NOLA City Bark’s 2,200 members frequently come from as far as Slidell, Houma and Lafayette to enjoy the facility.

“We’ve also had visitors from 14 different states and up into Canada,” Shreves said. Visitor permits from three to 14 days are available for purchase starting at $10.

Shreves says what she enjoys most about the park is the connections she sees being made every day by dog owners from throughout New Orleans and beyond.

“In the end, a dog park is really about bringing people together,” she said. “It’s really as much, or even more, about the humans as the dogs.”

For more information, and to purchase tickets for 101 Donations, visit www.nolacitybark.org or call (504) 483-9377.