GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — On a recent afternoon, Elena Behrman and her dog Peppa were spending some quality time at the section of Grand Rapids’ Hillcrest Park fenced off for a dog park.

At 6 months old, Peppa has a lot of energy to work off.

“Especially in the winter months, it’s good to have some place where she can get all of her energy out and really socialize with other dogs,” Behrman said.

A dog at snowy Hillcrest Park in Grand Rapids. (January 2023)
A dog at snowy Hillcrest Park in Grand Rapids. (January 2023)

For many city dwellers with small or no yards, Hillcrest and the city’s other dog parks at Covell Park on the West Side and at Williams Street and Market Avenue near downtown are a major city life selling point.

“It’s so convenient. It’s one of the reasons I picked my apartment. I was looking to move to the area. It just kind of sold me on it,” Behrman said.

But dog lovers living south of Fulton Street and east of Division Avenue, including those in the heavily populated 3rd Ward, have to travel elsewhere in the city for their dog’s playtime.

“We had one neighbor contact me saying, ‘We could use a dog park over here,'” Garfield Park Neighborhood Association organizer Fran Dalton said.

So Dalton called a meeting to see just how much interest there was for a dog park. It was a lot.

“So we ended up with a group we call the exploration team that is talking about what it is they wanted in terms of a dog park,” Dalton said.

The pandemic led to a lot of dog adoptions and gave owners a chance to spend a lot of time with their newfound friends.

“We’ve got all of these dogs. People have more dogs than they had before (the pandemic) and they’re thinking, ‘What am I going to do with this four-legged creature that I love dearly but I have to get out of the house and go to work?'” Dalton said.

Through Dalton and the Garfield Park Neighborhood Association’s efforts, work is underway on a plan that would bring a dog park to the area. Right now, a section of Cambridge Park, located on Cambridge Drive between Adams and Boston streets, appears to be the most likely location for the park. Already popular for four-legged neighbors, the park would add a fenced-in place for dogs to play.

City Hall shares the opinion that the South Side is underserved for dogs and their owners. According to a consultant hired by the city to look at expanding dog parks, most communities the size of Grand Rapids have four parks set aside for them. The Grand Rapids Parks’ master plan being drawn up by the Parks and Recreation Department includes at least one new dog park, likely on the South Side.

The Garfield Park Neighborhood Association received a grant from the Grand Rapids Jaycees Foundation to get the ball rolling. The money is being used to spread the word, and get residents interested in the idea.

“If we can’t show a broad base of enthusiasm and desire for this entity, these things, why would anybody put the effort and the money towards doing it?” Dalton said.

If you’d like to get involved, you can reach out to Dalton by calling 616.241.2443 or emailing

The parks master plan is expected to be completed sometime this summer. Between site selection and fundraising, Dalton is hopeful the gates to open within the next 18 months.