GRANDVIEW, Wash. — Becky Cantu has always been a dog person.
She grew up around dogs and her parents tell her stories of her affection for canines from when she was too young to remember.
“They said when I was a baby, dogs always took care of me,” she said.
Now Cantu, a 47-year-old retired accountant, and some fellow dog lovers are gathering support for an off-leash dog park on Willoughby Road just south of the Grandview cemetery and public works facility.
It would feature two fenced, grassy play areas — one for small dogs and one for large dogs.
They hope to open sometime this spring.
So far, they have a preliminary agreement with the city to rent from two to three acres of empty grassland now set aside as future expansion for the cemetery for $1 per year.
The next step is to raise start-up money. They need about $60,000 for fencing, signs and garbage cans, Cantu said.
“We want good fencing,” she said.
Currently, they are applying for a nonprofit status, but may piggyback with an existing group.
They hope not only to provide a place for Lower Valley dog owners to let their furry family members frolic, but also to add an attractive feature to Grandview for visitors.
“Everybody brings their pets with them nowadays,” Cantu said.
Dog-friendly has developed into a niche tourism category. Some hotels not only advertise their “Pets Welcome” policies, but loan you a pet if you didn’t bring your own, said Charlie Powell, a spokesman for the Washington State Veterinary Medicine Association.
Numerous websites dedicated to dog-friendly travel list off-leash parks the same way a family travel website would point out aquatic parks for children.
“People and families do make such decisions” about where to travel, Powell said.
Off-leash parks sometimes face opposition from those worried about noise, traffic and spread of disease. They are legitimate concerns, but nothing that should stop a park completely, Powell said.
So far, no concerns have been raised at City Hall, said Cus Arteaga, city administrator. However, the dog park will probably require an environmental review, which will give the public a chance to comment. The end of North Willoughby Road, in the shadow of Grandview’s water reservoir visible from Interstate 82, has a handful of homes.
Off-leash dog parks have popped up in numerous cities in the state, including Yakima and Richland.
The current iteration of Yakima’s dog park is in Sherman Park near Kmart as part of the Yakima Greenway. The one-acre park opened in 2008 with a $10,000 private donation.
It’s popular, though the organization does not take attendance, said Al Brown, executive director of the Greenway.
The rules — much like those suggested for Grandview — include no anti-social dogs and clean up after yourselves and your pets. The Greenway maintenance workers have complained of few instances of litter and dog messes, Brown said.
“People have been very responsible,” he said.
Cantu, who also owns Grandview pet accessory shop Pawprints Bakery, and other supporters checked out dog parks throughout the state.
“They all are animal lovers,” she said.
• Ross Courtney can be reached at 509-930-8798 or email@example.com.