Rock Hill to open off-leash dog area at Spencer Park

Rock Hill’s first dog park will open early next month after more than two years of work by city parks officials and a nonprofit group dedicated to making the city more dog-friendly.

A new dog area at Spencer Park will be ready for visitors by Aug. 9, officials said this week. Spencer Park, a city-owned recreational park, is on Eastwood Drive near Belleview Elementary School.

The new park will be a fenced-in area where dogs can run off-leash with their owners present. There will be separate, fenced-in areas for small breeds and large breeds.

David Hennes, vice president of the Rock Hill Dog Club, says the effort to open the dog park at Spencer Park is a great example of volunteerism and community participation. He and some friends and neighbors started the club in 2011 after discussions about Rock Hill’s need for a dog park.

The club made its first proposal to the city about one year ago. Since then, Hennes said, Rock Hill employees have worked hard to make the project possible.

“We got the interest and we showed the interest –– but they did the hard work,” he said.

The city has invested about $78,000 into the dog park.

Hennes will be one of the first people at Spencer Park when the park is officially open for dogs. His 5-year-old boxer, Sassy, will be there, too.

He hopes the area will be the start of a community movement to make Rock Hill a better place for families to have dogs, he said. Small things can make a difference, he said, such as more restaurants providing outdoor seating and water bowls for dogs who go out to eat with their owners.

City officials say the new dog park is another way Rock Hill’s parks, recreation and tourism offerings improve the quality of life in the city.

Many people enjoy spending time outdoors with pets and don’t always have a large yard for dogs to run in, said Laurie Helms, marketing coordinator for the city’s PRT department.

Rock Hill employees worked with Hennes and other dog club members to plan for the dog park. The Parks, Recreation and Tourism Commission also was instrumental in ensuring the project’s success, Helms said.

City officials have noticed the need for a dog park, she said, especially through events such as the annual Paws in the Park at Fewell Park. Attendance has grown every year.

This fall, the Rock Hill Dog Club plans to partner with the city to host and run Paws in the Park.

Officials are still finalizing the rules and policies for the Spencer Park dog Park, Helms said.

Over the past several months, Spencer Park has undergone a few upgrades to prepare for more families and pets. The park’s old tennis courts have been removed to make room for the dog park. The city also paid for parking and entrance improvements and a new fence.

Spencer Park will still have a picnic area and playground.

The dog park is just the beginning of what the Rock Hill Dog Club hopes to do, Hennes said. He and others hope to add club members and help Rock Hill become “dog-oriented,” he said.

“This is a first step and shouldn’t be thought of as a last step.”