Harlem Township officials opened Rover Run at the Ventura Boulevard park five years ago this month. The idea was hatched by Bob Aksamit, who wanted a place for Lucy to roam off leash. Today, it’s a haven for more than 200 dog owners.
“I always thought it would take off, and it sure did,” Aksamit said.
By the end of this year, registration fees collected since the park opened will have repaid the $20,000 spent to build the 2.5-acre fenced dog playground and the run for smaller dogs, said Harlem Township Supervisor Doug Aurand. A picnic shelter was added to the park this spring — at no cost — thanks to a project led by 17-year-old Eagle Scout Scott Kline.
Registration fees will continue to pay for ongoing maintenance costs. The fee is $25 per dog for Harlem Township residents and $35 for nonresidents. The park had 280 members last summer, Aurand said. The township allows a maximum of 350 dogs. The park welcomes people and their dogs no matter where they live, but about 90 percent of the members are from Harlem Township, Aurand said.
Suzi Juanez of Loves Park brings her golden retriever, Shadow, to the park nearly every day. It’s a place to help socialize her dog, so he’s not aggressive toward other animals.
“He gets to be off leash, and I get to socialize with people, too,” she said. “I met my best friend, Leanne, down there. And now my dog and her dog are best buddies, too.”
Meeting other dog owners is one of the best parts of the park, Aksamit said.
“It gives dogs a place to run, but it’s really a social place,” he said. “It’s funny, people might not know each other’s names, but everybody knows each other’s dog’s names.”