Putting the bark in a park lets pets and their people sing like a lark, especially for getting out with spring under way.
The cities of Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Conway, and town of Surfside Beach, all boast bark parks, each with fenced-in expanses for running off leash, safely. After all, children have their choice of playgrounds across the Grand Strand, so why not let pooches have their own place to romp and be happy? Of course, keeping pets up to date on all vaccinations, and cleaning up, go without saying as a chief rule for access to each site.
Accompanying a canine to a dog park also comes with prime time for socializing: for dogs, with other dogs and people, and for humans among themselves, at any time of year, for a winter day might equal any spring day in Cleveland; Erie, Pa.; or Montreal.
Last week, before dinner time, a group of retirees had the second of their daily gatherings in Myrtle Beach’s Barc Parc South, near a picnic table along Mallard Lake Drive, separate from the pond nearby where some dogs play fetch in the water. Asked for the magnet that keeps all parties coming back, the universal answer was the people and camaraderie.
With Jan Rambo, a Pittsburgher enjoying her seventh winter here, Sammy, an 8-year-old, black Labrador mix, sporting a pink, spotted collar, is known for her kiss hellos, a reception also embraced by this writer more than once.
Brought in by Don Miner from Seagate Village neighborhood across the street, Pickles, a tall terrier mix and rescue with caramel brown eyes and stately light beard, hopped on the table for instant some ear rubbing.
Manny Folinas, a Greek native and former chef in New Jersey who settled in Myrtle Beach, has come to this dog park for 10 years, and he remains a member of this park family, even after the passing of his boxer, Moose, at age 10.
Sharon and Dale Nix from Halifax, Nova Scotia, who expanded this second Grand Strand winter vacation to two months from one, took turns with schnauzers sitting between their knees – Ben, almost 11; Mason, 10; and Brody, 8. Dale Nix, who sat outward on a bench of the picnic table as his wife reclined in a folding chair with a beverage in the cup holder, said Folinas can borrow some happiness from their trio anytime.
Rambo said the gang’s conversations cover almost anything, from food and Folinas’ fondness for cooking baklava and rice pudding – and Dale Nix’s aversion to add oregano to either one – to movies such as “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” which opens March 25 on the same day with “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
“I have learned all about Nova Scotia and Greece through talking,” Rambo said.
The gang also values Folinas’ sense of humor and his innate observations, right down to the sequence of when each proximate street light will turn on as dusk approaches, starting with one bulb, then 10 seconds later, the next one.
Sharon Nix said in their maritime Canadian homeland, off New Brunswick and Maine, any dog park would be too far to commute from their residence. However, her husband said they all stroll through woods and on trails.
The Nixes and Rambo all said when they return south next winter, they will look forward to hooking up with the dog-park pack again.
A two-part dog park, split for smaller and larger dogs, factored heavily into planning for the 162-acre North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex, at S.C. 90 and Robert Edge Parkway.
Matt Gibbons, superintendent of recreation/sports tourism for the city of North Myrtle Beach, said that before the complex’s opening in April 2014, “one of the most common requests from our community in regards to recreational facilities was a request for a dog park,” and the decision on that fulfillment came easily, with some homework.
“As we did our research on dog parks,” Gibbons said, “we came across many that had separated the large dog area from the small dog area. By separating the areas, it gave the ‘smaller’ dogs more freedom and less intimidation for the dogs and their owners.
“Not only did we decide to separate the areas, we also decided to place them on opposite sides of the parking lot, reducing the potential for larger and smaller dogs to interact. We feel this is has helped the dog park become very popular with all dog owners. We decided to keep both dog parks very natural with the existing trees and woods, in addition to adding grassy areas. This provides shade and comfort for the dogs and owners, especially in the hot summer.”
Gibbons also raised the “great social setting” aspect for dog owners, and how the dedicated dog play spaces “remain one of the busiest amenities” at the park and sports complex.
Echoing Rambo’s praise for their chosen place in which to assemble in their circle, Miner said other groups congregate across the 14 acres of Myrtle Beach’s Barc Park South depending on the time of day, and many of the patrons who cross paths and time periods recognize one another overall.
“It’s a dog park family,” he said. “I know all the dogs’ names, but not always the people’s names.”
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 843-444-1764.
If you go – Mostly open sunrise-sunset
▪ City of Myrtle Beach – Barc Parc North, adjacent to Claire Chapin Epps Family YMCA, on 62nd Avenue North Extension, west of U.S. 17 Bypass, with 3.3 acres and separate areas for small and large dogs each; and Barc Parc South, on Mallard Lake Drive, in Seagate Village, behind Food Lion at Glenmark Plaza, with 14 acres, including pond. Free. 832-918-2332 or www.cityofmyrtlebeach.com/barcparcs.html.
▪ City of North Myrtle Beach – Dog Park, at North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex, at S.C. 90 and Robert Edge Parkway (www.nmbpark.com), with separate areas for small (less than 25 pounds) and large dogs each. Open 6:30 a.m. Free. 843-281-3800 or nmbpark.com/waggin-tails-dog-park/.
▪ City on Conway – Dog Park, 1700 New Road, beside north end of Lake Busbee, accessible from on-ramp to U.S. 501 southeast from U.S. 701 (Fourth Avenue), and from other streets off U.S. 701 south, mainly Creel Street and Altman Road, with separate areas for small and large dogs. Free. 843-488-1950 or www.conwayparksandrecreation.com/parks/conwaydogpark.html.
▪ Town of Surfside Beach – Dog Park, along Willow Drive North, between First Avenue North and Pine Drive, near Horry County Memorial Library Surfside Beach branch, with separate areas for large and small dogs each. Free, but all dogs must sport town of Surfside Beach license tags, $10 from town town hall, 115 U.S. 17 Business N. Closed 10 a.m.-noon Wednesdays for cleaning. 843-913-6111 or surfsidebeach.org/parks.
▪ Freeway Park – at A Dog’s Way Inn, 761 Pendergrass Ave., Murrells Inlet, west of U.S. 17, open 8:30 a.m. daily, with 3 acres, including pond, with limit of two dogs per person. Pet evaulation, and registration, required. Daily fee $5 per pet – or 10-day pass punch card for $30 per dog or $50 for two dogs. 843-357-4545 or www.adogswayinn.com/dogpark.html. Also: “Fur Flies 4 Fun” competition by A Way to Play Dog Agility Club, with more than 200 races daily: 5-8 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Free to see,with 50/50 raffle to benefit Barnabas Horse Foundation. www.awaytoplaydogagilityclub.com.