What is a Dog Park?

A Dog Park is an exercise area for responsible dog owners to exercise their dog(s). Most dog parks are fenced allowing the dogs to be exercised off-leash, in a safe environment. Often Dog Parks are managed by the park users in partnership with city officials.

What is the FDPA?

The Fitchburg Dog Park Advocates is a grassroots group of city residents that united to establish the first fenced-in, off-leash Dog Park in central Fitchburg, Wisconsin. In 2006, interest in a Dog Park was documented in the City’s comprehensive plan as a top priority. The public surveys conducted in 2009 and 2015 continued to show strong interest in a Dog Park in Fitchburg, WI.

In the summer of 2015, a call was put out in the local newspaper, emails were sent out and posts were made on Facebook as well as at public meetings about getting a group together to support a Dog Park in Fitchburg. There was a tremendously positive response and the group, the Fitchburg Dog Park Advocates (FDPA) has been growing steadily since then.

The group met several times, including meetings with city staff, parks staff, alders and the Mayor, to talk about a Dog Park and many of the details that pertain to a Dog Park, including a lot of research on existing facilities and what the residents want. FDPA have made presentations during a public meeting hosted by the Parks Department, to the Committee of the Whole and to the Parks Commission.

Over the course of organizing and talking with local residents, the FDPA has heard from countless dog owners in support of this effort. We heard from non-dog owners who are in support of a Dog Park to relieve congestion on the other parks.

Who benefits from a Dog Park?

Dogs and dog owners benefit by having a place for their dogs to exercise and expend energy. In addition, a Dog Park is a great place to meet other Fitchburg residents. Non-dog owners also benefit. Dog parks relieve the pressure on other city parks by providing a specific place to exercise dogs safely. Plus, a well-exercised dog is less likely to become a nuisance in the neighborhood in which they live. With the increase in multi-family units, smaller lot sizes and developments prohibiting fences, the need for a place where dog owners and caretakers can safely exercise their dogs also increases.

Don’t we already have enough dog parks?

Until Sunnyside Park opened in 2018, there were no dog parks in Fitchburg. Depending on where you live, the closest dog park was 20-35 minutes away. Over 10% of the Dane County Dog Park Permits issued in 2015 were to community residents, and Fitchburg’s population is only 5% of Dane County – that’s twice the average of dog park users in the rest of the county.

How many dog owners are there in the city?

According to a 2012 US Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook report, 36.5% of American households own at least one dog. That calculates to nearly 10,000 dog owners in the City of Fitchburg. In 2015, 1,328 dog licenses were issued by the City of Fitchburg.

How much did the Dog Park cost taxpayers?

In Fall 2015, Alder Patrick Stern introduced a CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) item allocating $50,000 toward establishing a dog park.

The Fitchburg Dog Park Advocates (FDPA), a group of Fitchburg resident volunteers, agreed to raise funds privately for amenities like a kiosk, signage, benches, a picnic table, a bike rack, and tree plantings. So those costs came from donations and fundraising efforts, not from taxpayer dollars.

Alder Jake Johnson proposed to change the funding source for the city’s $50,000 contribution to the City’s Park Dedication Fund, which is a funded by developers. Developers, with the Park Commission’s approval, can pay a fee in lieu of providing the optimal acreage of parkland in their developments. Those fees are earmarked in the Park Dedication fund for the City to either buy new parkland where it wants to add a park or to improve a community park. As a result, when Alder Johnson’s proposal went through, there was no cost at all to the taxpayers for the design or building of this dog park.

Some ongoing annual maintenance costs are expected, including: a few mowings per year, restocking waste bags, snow removal, trash removal, etc., but that cost is expected to be very small (a small fraction of a single staff person’s time).

How does the Dog Park affect the property values of nearby houses?

Parks increase livability of a community. The more parks a city has, the higher property values tend to be. The FDPA and city staff are striving to design a beautiful, natural space that willo enhance the surrounding area and preserve the natural surroundings and habitat there. Additionally, the benefit of a place for neighbors to gather helps community and makes our city more enjoyable and livable. Dog parks have become a sought-after amenity among people relocating to a community as cited in the “The Impact of Parks on Property Values” article.

Where does the name “Sunnyside” come from?

The name “Sunnyside Park” celebrates Fitchburg’s rich agricultural history and honors the Wilke family who lived and worked in Fitchburg. Learn more on our About page.

How big is Sunnyside Dog Park?

Sunnyside Dog Park is four acres with a third-mile of trails including a path through the woods, an open grassy area and a smaller, separate area.

Dog parks tend to be at least 10 acres, while dog exercise areas are anywhere from 1/2 acre to 6-7 acres. Based on input, Fitchburg residents wanted a nearby option for stopping by a couple times during the weekdays. Many current city parks are smaller than five acres and are great parks that are well utilized and appreciated. While a bigger Dog Park would be nice, central location and accessibility are bigger factors.

What about the noise?

Despite common misconception, dog parks are not loud places. If you haven’t been to a dog park, plan to visit one and take note of how little barking there actually is. Well-exercised dogs are much quieter and better behaved than dogs who don’t get exercise. It is also worth remembering that sound levels decline based on the distance from the source.

Noise Source Level1 Decibel Effect
Rock concert 140 dB Pain begins
Power mower 110 dB Sustained exposure may cause hearing loss
Blender 100 dB Sustained exposure may cause hearing loss
Motorcycle 105 dB Sustained exposure may cause hearing loss
Vacuum cleaner 80 dB Conversational speech level
Barking dog 75 dB Conversational speech level
Street traffic 70 dB Conversational speech level
Birds at 10’ 55 dB Threshold for hearing level

1 NetWell

Noise studies at dog parks have found the noise level to be minimal. Most dogs do not bark while in a Dog Park as they are too busy running and playing.

In addition, the design for Fitchburg’s dog park makes use of landscaping buffers (trees and berms) which not only provide shade and make for a prettier park, but also provide a sound barrier as added insurance. Also, by city ordinance (Sec. 54-23), park hours are limited. See more about hours under Park Rules.

What about the smell?

Dog Park users tend to be responsible and value the parks they use. They want the area to be clean and will pick up after their dogs. Waste stations and waste bags are available for users. In addition, volunteers conduct periodic clean-ups.

How were the sites under consideration for a Dog Park selected?

The City of Fitchburg staff, including various departments, provided nine sites for consideration. These sites were then evaluated and ranked by Fitchburg residents and Dog Park users. See Criteria below.

What criteria were used to evaluate the prospective Dog Park sites?

A number of prospective sites were evaluated using the following criteria:

  • Size – how many acres are available
  • Land features – flat, meadow, standing water, etc
  • Land condition – site preparation needed for a Dog Park
  • Parking – availability of and whether on or off street
  • Proximity to Fitchburg’s center – population center, not geographic
  • Ease of getting to and in – from all modes of transportation
  • Year round usability – any drainage issues
  • Shaded areas – presence of trees
  • Beauty
  • Neighborhood – surrounded by houses
  • Safety – for people and dogs
  • Long term externalities – city long-term plans for use

What are the Dog Park rules?

The current rules for park usage are posted on the entry gate to the Dog Park. By using the park, visitors agree to abide by the posted rules, which were designed to keep both dogs and people safe and happy as they enjoy our community resource.
Please remember to pick up after your pets! Bags for pet waste are provided near the
entrance to the Dog Park in green containers. Please dispose of the waste in the
garbage cans. View more online on our Rules page.

What permit or license do I need to use the Dog Park?

Sunnyside Dog Park does not require a permit or have a daily fee to use the park. However, dogs visiting Sunnyside Dog Park must have a current dog license, valid for the year of your visit. There are no additional fees to use the park once your pet is licensed.

If you are a Fitchburg resident, you may obtain a current dog license and collar tag through City Hall. Learn more at fitchburgwi.gov/165/Pet-Licenses.

Visitors that are not Fitchburg residents may obtain licenses through your local city government or municipality. Some veterinarians also provide the service.

Quick Links for Dog License Applications:

What do I do in a public safety situation?

Call 9-1-1 for all emergency public safety situations.
Call 608-270-4300 for non-emergency public safety situations.

How can I stay informed about updates and progress?

Follow FDPA on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FitchburgDPA, or email FDPA at FitchburgDogParkAdvocates@gmail.com and request to be added to the email list.

How can I help?

I have another question not answered here, who do I ask?

Email FDPA at FitchburgDogParkAdvocates@gmail.com with any questions.

The content of these FAQs, including, but not limited to, text, graphics, images, information obtained from outside sources, and other material contained, are intended for informational and educational purposes only. Any content provided is not intended to replace advice from licensed professionals.