Oakhurst Dog Park

Save the Forest. Save the Dog Park.

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“And there’s a dog park right around the corner”

“And there’s a dog park right around the corner,” the previous owner told us in 2009 when we scraped things together and bought a house in Oakhurst.  At the time, our misanthropic elderly Dalmatian was adamantly anti-social, so we didn’t have much reason to visit the Oakhurst dog park.  And in any case, I’d grown up in a pretty rural area in the ’70s, where cows outnumbered people, and apple trees had the cows beat hands down.  Dogs roamed wherever they felt like it, and came home for meals.  I’d gradually gotten used to living in one city and another, over the years, and even the idea of living with a dog in an urban setting – but even so, I’d never really gotten the idea of a dog park.  What did all the dogs do together there?  What if you met someone you didn’t like?  Wasn’t there lots of poop?

When we got our next dog, Wilbur, I thought I might as well try out the whole concept, although I still had misgivings that, in retrospect, sound pretty silly. The joke, of course, is that I was just channeling universal misgivings: I have not met those people.  I have not met this situation. They are not familiar to me.  I am uncomfortable.   But I took a deep breath, and plunged into a new community.

Of course the people there turned out to be marvelous people, each in their interesting ways.  That’s hardly a surprise, but it’s worth saying.  It’s also worth saying, and true, that I met wonderful people there who turned out to be important friends in my life – that I’ve seen a bewildering range of interpersonal connections, from weddings to funerals, miscarriages and divorces to births and anniversaries, jobs lost and found, children in trouble and triumph, business partnerships formed, softball teams established, and genuine love and concern transcending any of the supposed boundaries of race, of religion, of sexuality, of income, of political bent that are trumpeted in the media as threatening the fabric of American communities.  I’ve also seen all of those disparate individuals working together for the common goal of making a public space to share the public good.

It’s actually a little hard to communicate all that happens there without sounding hyperbolic.  When friends from long ago ask me about living in Decatur, in Georgia, and our lives and what we do there, they inevitably ask – “and do you have a lot of friends there?”  Yes, I say.  “From where?  From work, right?  From your kids’ school?”  Yes and yes, I say.  “But mostly from the dog park.”  I don’t think anyone really understands, but the dog park is really, as my friend Charles likes to say, “the new town square.”  The dog park is where we go for humor and comfort and companionship.  And beyond just to spend time with friends with dogs, the dog park is a space for us to celebrate together our shared dedication to community and to each other.  In a way, just being at the dog park – whether I’m sitting and chatting, or throwing sticks, or cutting invasive plants or spreading mulch –helps remind me of being part of something bigger and better, something that helps Oakhurst remember and recreate everything that we value about being in this community together.


Denis Gainty, January 2, 2015


Mission and Vision


It’s our mission to preserve one of the last forested areas in Decatur and the Oakhurst Dog Park that calls it home.

We continue to support and fund the Boy’s and Girl’s Club that owns the property so they can continue to provide the Oakhurst community with an irreplaceable public amenity.


Our vision is for all communities have the  public green spaces and dog parks that enrich the lives of their citizens.

Thank You Very Mulch

To a considerable degree, the health and hygiene of the Oakhurst dogpark starts with mulch.  The woodchips arrive.  Huge piles of chipped wood mostly from trees in Decatur and many in Oakhurst.  Our last 2 huge loads were from the trees in Harmony park just down the road.

The wood-chip mini-mountains stay there and get peed and played on until they are moved or they decompose into dirt.  Mostly we move them, and by “we” i mean I.  Don’t get me wrong, I really thoroughly enjoy the whole process of taking these chip hills fork by fork (pitch, that is) and moving them into the forest or other areas in the flood-plain that need help.  From the very beginning I understood that the health of the forest and trees is paramount to the overall well being of the entire park.

Richard Backwell inspired me when i saw him cutting choking invasive vines from the trees.  I started helping him and then began the 3+ year process of moving hundreds of tons of the mulch up the hill and into the forest.  My goal, after studying water run-off and trees for years on my own old property and consulting with experts and professionals, was to re-build the soil.  To that end, I created small paths through the forest and left the rest to be as wild as possible.  It’s taken a few years, but thee is a lot of soil now in the forest.  And, we’ve created channels and berms and different methods to keep as much water on the hill as possible.  Now when it rains, many thousands of gallons of water are not running down onto the overworked field. There is also much less standing water in the flood area and therefore less mosquitoes and less mud.

In 1995 I started an entertainment company, Jest for Fun! Productions, Inc., and one of my favorite clients was the Atlanta Botanical Gardens- a magical place in the center of the city.  I wanted our little forest to be like the old forest area of the Botanical Garden prior to building the “canopy tour.”  It has become like that in  many small ways; dogpark denizens have  built rock sculptures and wood sculptures and painted signs and made art.  Deborah yarn bombed the trees and kids twisted Wisteria vines into circles and hearts.  Our little forest is home to lots of creatures like owls and hawks and bats and loads of other birds and ground critters.  There is a great human component that is part of the forest as well as a wonderful canine community.

And it starts with the mulch.

Pro Tips on Mulching

  • Keep mulch on paths only, and make them deep, but narrow –about one rake’s width.
  • For areas on the field, do your best to cover obvious dirt/mud/bald areas, but do your best not to cover the outside grass parts
  • Lots of much can go behind the little fenced area and a berm of wood chips  can be placed on the full backside and 60% of the sides.  This will keep water in the fenced area where we will be planting Willow trees and bog plants in the near future.
  • Fill in holes as they are dug, the scent of the trees covers some of the reason to dogs to dig.
  • It is best to continually add wood chips  to the front area, near the two tables, as this area wears down fast from traffic and lots of rain run-off from the sidewalk.
  • Stretch first, wear gloves, bend your knees and have fun! It’s great exercise and you get to be outside in fresh air all while helping the forest and it’s inhabitants, the dogs and the humans in Oakhurst

Lee Goldsmith

December 20, 2014

Sign the Petition to Preserve the Oakhurst Dog Park and Forest

changelogoGo to change.org to sign the petition. This petition will be delivered to the Decatur (GA) Planning Commission and City Commission.


Continue reading

Turtles in the Oakhurst Forest

One of many species of animals that depend on undeveloped land for survival.

Children Support the Forest and Dog Park

Many of the children who visit the Oakhurst Dog Park recently organized themselves and created this banner to support the preservation of the forest and the dog park.

If you’re in support as well, sign the petition or contact the City of Decatur and voice your support.

Save the Forest. Save the Dog Park.

Welcome to the Oakhurst Dog Park website!

A Little History

In 1971, the City of Decatur sold approximately five acres of land to the Boy’s and Girl’s Club  of America (BGCA) for $15,000 to support their mission of serving the community. The BGCA erected their main building there and subsequently added a ball field next to it.

The Boy’s and Girl’s Club has leased the rest of the land,  including both a forested area and a flood plain,  back to the City of Decatur as a dog park for a dollar per year.

Recently, Weaver Capital Partners approached the BGCA and proposed buying the forested portion of the dog park (the flood plain cannot be developed) for private development. They propose to build two single-family houses where the forested area is located.

They petitioned the City of Decatur Planning Commission to allow them to subdivide the property to allow a portion of the land to be sold for development.

Approximately 100 forest lovers and dog park users attended the Planning Commission meeting to voice their concerns and desires. The Planning Commission voted to table the petition to subdivide the property until their next meeting.

Park and forest supporters also spoke at the City Commission meeting the following week. The mayor expressed his hope that a better solution could be found than the one proposed.

Current State

The Oakhusrt Dog Park is used by hundreds of people and their dogs every day of the year.

We have organized ourselves into a model of community effort. It has become the new town square, where people cross racial and socio-economic lines to forge lasting relationships, discuss politics and build community.  We have had at least one marriage come out of the connections made here, as well many successful business contacts, birthday celebrations, and even spontaneous coffee services!

The dog park is an essential part of the successful rescue and adoption of dogs in Decatur. Visitors have access to a deep and developing shared wisdom on how best to socialize their dogs (and their owners) so they can all become better citizens.

We’re Good Stewards of the Forest

Over the last several years, he dog park community has self-organized and completely transformed the forested area as well as the flood plane:

  • Removed invasive species of plants, including vines and ivy
  • Trimmed trees properly to support their health
  • Removed all garbage and debris
  • Built and maintained trails
  • Prevented soil erosion

We think it’s the best dog park in the Atlanta Area. Come by and visit. You’ll be welcomed.

Goals and Next Steps

About a dozen dog parkers have coordinated their efforts to find an alternative to selling the forest for private development.

We’re trying to find way thaat the BGCA can get additional funding without having to sell the forest for development. We also want to find a way to keep the Oakhurst Dog Park where it is on a permanent basis.

If you have ideas or want to help, let us know!

Charles Willi



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