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Home > Leadership > Mayor > Archived Press Releases > 2009 Archives > June 2009 > New Barkyard Cuts The Leash Not Just The Ribbon In LaSalle Park

New Barkyard Cuts The Leash Not Just The Ribbon In LaSalle Park

Contacts:  R. Reed Stevens, DVM 474-2659
                Jay McCarthy   830-0774
                Peter Cutler  851-4841 

Click here to view Park Rules

$40,000 In Privately Donated Funds Builds Improved Off-Leash Area For Dogs; Built And Managed By Buffalo Off-Leash Area, Inc. It is the Region’s Only Official Off-Leash Area And First MicroPark.

Through a coordinated effort with the Mayor’s Office, Department of Public Works, County Parks Department, and Buffalo MicroParks, Buffalo Off-Leash Areas, Inc. is opening the NEW Barkyard at the south end of D.A.R. Drive in LaSalle Park.  This new Off-Leash Area features:

  • Space nearly threefold larger than the trial off-leash area;
  • A dedicated fenced off section for small dogs less than 30 lbs;
  • A four foot vinyl coated fence to provide unobstructed views from inside and outside the park showcasing our waterfront and our city skyline;
  • A double gated sally port to prevent dogs from slipping out;
  • An asphalt mowing strip around the entire perimeter to ease maintenance costs;
  • Curb cuts, a paved entry plaza, lighting, and a neighboring parking lot to allow easy access for the elderly and disabled; and
  • This is all supported by a cadre of “Bark Rangers” - volunteers who will promote responsible use of the new Barkyard.

Championed by a small, dedicated group of volunteers, Buffalo Off-Leash Areas, Inc., in collaboration with Buffalo MicroParks opened the first, official off-leash area for dogs in July of 2007 next to the Colonel Ward Pumping Station in the region.  Long overdue, the pent up demand for a safe place to run dogs in Western New York quickly resulted in over 2000 visitors and their dogs a week enjoying even that first undersized and ill-equipped, temporary off-leash area.

“Today, this accomplishment of a new, properly designed, dog park is important not only because it provides a safe place for dogs to exercise but it is an example of the positive, simple, but significant things that can be achieved in our community when government partners with grass roots organizations such as Buffalo Off-Leash, Inc.  The key to this park’s success has been and will be that the users are taking ownership and responsibility for the proper care and use of this incredible public space,” asserts Buffalo Off-Leash, Inc. President, R. Reed Stevens, DVM.

“The Barkyard has been a tremendous success, both for the dogs that benefit from this great facility and their owners, who are able to provide their pets with exercise in a great setting,” said Mayor Brown. “But the success of the original Barkyard soon proved that a larger, better facility was needed for the thousands of dogs and pet owners who come here every week. I commend all of the partners who have made the Barkyard such a resounding success, particularly Buffalo Off-Leash Areas, Inc., which advocated tirelessly for this important facility. I’m also pleased to announce that my Administration allocated $26,750 in the city’s 2009 Capital Budget to design and build a new parking area that will complement the new Barkyard and provide a good location for visitors to park every time they visit this location.”

Jay McCarthy, President of Buffalo MicroParks, initiated the idea of a dog park becoming the first of what his organization sees a series of special interest parks.  “Our goal is to create a waterfront dotted with parks that serve as small oases to the residents of Buffalo and WNY that bring people back along our waterfront to enjoy the benefits of living along this fantastic body of water.  To that end, our next plans involve the development of a fishing park and a skate plaza.”  

The City, especially the Department of Public Works, Corporation Counsel, and the Water Board, have been stalwart supporters of this effort from the beginning.  “Making this part of the park available to us was the key to our success today.” says Stevens.  Of the $40,000 to build this new facility zero taxpayer’s dollars were spent.  100% of the funds were raised through private donations from people and organizations who understood the need of having off-leash Areas in Buffalo.  Major donors include The Martin Group, The Baird Foundation, Nestle Purina Co., Joseph, Schroder and Associates, Yodel and Suzanne Taylor, and the Herb and Arron Siegel Foundation.  Further donations are needed for planned improvements including:

  • Water fountains for both the small-dog and all-dog areas;
  • Shelters to extend the use of the park 12 months a year on Buffalo’s windswept waterfront;
  • Walking paths, benches, and landscaping.
  • Substrate improvements in high traffic areas to provide good footing and reduce mud in wet seasons; and
  • Funds to promote and run programming to support responsible dog ownership, citizenship, and park usage;

Volunteer opportunities, such as becoming a Bark Ranger, abound and tax deductible donations are gratefully accepted through   For rules of the Barkyard: see attached

Our Mission:  To establish off-leash areas within Erie County where dogs and their owners can exercise and socialize in a clean, safe environment without infringing on the rights of others.  To develop and maintain spaces where dogs can run legally off-leash, open to all dog lovers and friends, who are willing to uphold the rules governing the park.  To view these parks as community projects, in partnership with the City of Buffalo and Erie County, designed to satisfy the needs of dog owners and non-dog-owners alike.
Benefits of Off-Leash Areas

  • 40% of WNY households have dogs and nowhere to let them run off-leash safely and legally.
  • A better exercised and socialized dog makes a better pet and better neighbor.
  • The Barkyard attracts a diverse group of citizens and weave a tighter social fabric across our city.
  • The elderly and disabled may access the park safely and exercise their dog like nowhere else
  • Ownership of the park taken by the users builds civic pride and responsibility.
  • High user traffic at the Barkyard show cases and constructively utilizes our most precious resource – our waterfront.
  • Making Buffalo more dog friendly is a key to Buffalo more attractive.

Recent Questions We Are Frequently Asked:

Why didn’t the City or County do this for us?
The worst possible outcome would have happened if the City came in and spent $125,000 of taxpayer’s money (60% of whom do not own a dog) and walked away.  By gradually raising money over time and by having the trial Barkyard since July 2007, we have built up a core user base that understands how the park works.  They know the rules.  They pick up after their dogs.  They volunteer to help clean up and improve the park.  And they know when to speak up when other users are not doing the same.  The new Bark Rangers will help spread this culture to the new influx of users we expect.

Why is fence only four feet high?
Partly due to cost – four feet is significantly less expensive than five or six feet, but mostly, four feet was selected because it provides an unobstructed vista of this gorgeous waterfront from both inside and outside the Barkyard.  The black vinyl coating on the fence further hides the fence making it more visually transparent. A few Barkyarders have expressed a concern that their dog might jump a four foot fence.   The truth is that most dogs in an off leash-area want to stay in the off-leash area – that is where the action is and why they love coming here.  There will be a small percentage of dogs that would jump a four foot fence, or a five or six foot fence.  Simply, this is not the off-leash area for them.  New areas are in the works that could have a higher fence.

Why not just charge a usage or membership fee?
That would have made the fundraising a lot easier and there is certainly enough demand for such an idea.  The board managing the Barkyard feels it is ethically, and perhaps legally, wrong to charge people to use a public space.  One of the great strengths and, indeed purpose, of the Barkyard is to bring people from all over the city and county together in one place, people of all different socio-economic backgrounds to interact and weave a social fabric that is unique to this place and strengthens our community.  There is no better social ice-breaker than a dog.

I heard that dogs have been killed in the dog park.
Tragically yes, in the former Barkyard on three known occasions, small dogs where attacked by larger dogs, two of them wounded mortally.  Now finally small dogs less than 30 lbs. will have their own dedicated Small Dog Area at the south end of the Barkyard.  Other than that, a pack dynamic that occurs in the neutral territory of an off-leash area that reduces the threat of serious dog aggressive behavior.  Not all dogs are appropriate for off-leash area, however.  Posted rules address this.  Owners’ liability and responsibility for the actions of their dogs do change inside or outside the Barkyard.  If a dog is not acting appropriately it is the responsibility of the owner to leave.  And the responsibility of the other dogs owner in the park to ask that dog/owner to leave.  With great parks comes great responsibility.

Why hasn’t this been done before?
That is our favorite and most common question and our reply is “Because you did not do it!”  The people serving on the board of Barkyard are no different than anyone else in the region.  We all have responsibility and ability to improve the neighborhood around us.  Yes, it took time (eight years for some of us), perseverance and organization but step by step we arrived at where we stand today.  The city supported us 100% all along the way as did our donors and Buffalo MicroParks.