Jaycee Park in Sanford, Florida, was created in 1877. It was the first park in the city. By 2014, the park and the surrounding neighborhood had fallen on hard times. The neighborhood had become industrial and was dotted with dilapidated buildings. The park was plagued with crime and homelessness. The city decided it was time for a change, and designated the park as an off-leash dog park, the first of its kind in central Florida.
They completely remodeled the park, even changing its shape to a dog paw, with small green spaces to resemble paw pads. They added a small dog enclosure, a time-out area that is used for overstimulated dogs, and an agility course. The park also has self-filling water bowls, poop bags, and a water mister for dogs and their humans, a welcome amenity in the middle of a Florida summer.
The park's design didn't overlook people. There are plenty of benches, as well as picnic tables. For anyone who forgot to pack a lunch, there are several vending machines selling not only drinks but cold sandwiches and other food items. There is an also a very nice restroom facility, which is actually air-conditioned. And around the park, there are sculptures and murals.
The reaction to the park has been overwhelmingly positive. Paw Park was featured in Dog Fancy Magazine, and the park's creation led to the city of Sanford being recognized a number of times as being particularly dog-friendly. The biggest changes were to the neighborhood surrounding the park.
A number of businesses catering to dogs have cropped up, including groomers and vets, as well as businesses catering to dog people, such as cafes, restaurants and retail stores, all designed to accommodate leashed dogs. To say that the city of Sanford re-modeled Jaycee Park is an understatement. It was changed so radically it would be completely unrecognizable, except for the address. The park has completely revitalized an area that was in steep decline, concrete proof of the way that dogs can improve life.