NPR council likes vision for improved Meadows Dog Park

Plans to overhaul Meadows Dog Park, located toward the southern reaches of New Port Richey’s city limits, were presented to City Council last week during a work session prior to the regular meeting.

NEW PORT RICHEY — The City Council on July 8 received its first look at the proposed vision for an upgraded and updated Meadows Dog Park.

Ten months after coming to an agreement with St. Petersburg-based Wannemacher Jensen Architects Inc., the firm returned with a presentation that calls for sprucing up and reimagining the rundown and outdated neighborhood park.

“While the park grounds are well-maintained, the park amenities have suffered in recent years. They appear to be overused and in need of repair,” City Manager Debbie Manns said during the July 8 work session. “Many of the amenities were identified in the parks and recreation master plan as in need of replacement.”

Wannemacher Jensen’s proposal, Manns said, “represents well a new sense of pride for the park and increases its attractiveness and its usefulness for the neighborhood. And I think that’s really important because it’s one our very few community parks.”

Meadows Dog Park is roughly six acres in size and tucked into a residential area to the south of the city. It’s just to the south of James E. Grey Preserve and the Pithlachascotee River.

“You can tell the city really takes pride in this park here and that the residents really make use of it,” said Hannah Ambrose project manager and architect with Wannemacher Jensen.

In its current state, Meadows Dog Park consists of multiple amenities for dogs and humans alike. The two fenced-in, open spaces for canines — one for large dogs and another for small dogs — are accompanied by a children’s playground, basketball courts, a restroom facility and a path that extends out to the river. The entrance to the park is where Larch Lane and Meadowbrook Lane converge, north of Cecelia Drive.

Ambrose’s presentation of Meadows Dog Park reimagined began with a play area for young children being the first thing visitors are greeted by from the 16-space parking lot. This is by design so parents with small children needn’t travel too far. Next up would be play space for middle school-aged children Ambrose described as a bouldering area, including ropes and ladders. For guests ages 13 and up, the new park would include a “ninja court,” Ambrose said.

Ninja court?

Think “American Ninja Warrior”-styled obstacles but on a neighborhood-friendly level.

Additional proposals include the basketball facilities being replaced by three pickleball courts, the restrooms getting an update, about 25 benches scattered throughout the site, five water fountains and a dog water station, and a reworked shade structure and picnic area.

As for the dog parks, Ambrose said her team has reworked the orientation of them a bit to take advantage of some of the space in the corner of the site, with a combination of sod and mulch in some of the muddier, shaded areas.

Surrounding the entire park would be a roughly quarter-mile nature trail that extends into some of the wetland areas and up to a river overlook clearing.

“We thought it would be great to not only preserve that but to highlight it a little more,” Ambrose said of the current pathway and its extension out to the river.

Following the presentation, a few suggestions from council gained traction.

Council member Chopper Davis proposed the architecture firm and city explore the options of including a kayak launch along the Cotee River and lighting for the pickleball courts.

“It is a good idea and in fact in the master plan they even had a (walking) bridge over to the James E. Grey Preserve,” Manns said in response to Davis’ kayak launch recommendation.

Following Thursday’s work session, it appears the park may soon be getting a new name, as well.

“It’s in a unique location and we call it the dog park, but I think that’s kind of mislabeled because it’s really so much more,” Council member Mike Peters said.

Peters’ fellow board members concurred, and the inclusion of new name options appear likely in the next project update.