Editor's note: This story is part of a series looking back at some of the biggest stories of 2018. Find the rest of the series here: Top Ten 2018.
People and dogs have been loving the new city dog park, W10225 County Highway FF, said city of River Falls Recreation Manager Cindi Danke
"There are times that the parking lot is almost full, even now with the colder weather," Danke said. "We are in the process of planning a first year celebration on National Dog Day, which is always Aug. 26 every year."
Danke said three benches were donated by the Rotary, and will be installed next spring. The family of the late Nola Janicki, an 11-year-old Meyer Middle School student who died last March by suicide, hopes to honor Nola's memory in some way at the dog park. Danke said a memorial has not been decided on and is still being discussed with the family.
Parks and Rec also plans to mow trails and generally clean up the area in the future.
The dog park officially opened Sept. 14. The 16-acre park includes fenced in areas for large and small dogs, picnic tables, dog waste stations, trash receptacles and a portable restroom.
The park is free for everyone to use until Jan. 1.
After that, city residents will receive a pass when they purchase their yearly dog license(s). Nonresidents will be able to purchase a pass for $25, good for one year. Passes can be purchased at City Hall, 222 Lewis St., during regular business hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with proof of vaccination. Applications can be found on the city website.
Danke offered the following tips for those visiting the dog park:
• Bring ample water for your dog(s).
• Do not bring food or dog toys into the area. They may create a conflict.
• Place your dog off leash in the transition area before entering the unleashed, non- occupied area. Some dogs can feel threatened if they are leashed in the presence of unleashed dogs.
• For the first visit to a dog park, try to arrive at a time when there are fewer dogs. This will reduce the dog's potential stress. Walk your dog around the park on the outside of the fence. Let the dogs that are inside come over to the fence to sniff and greet to see how your pup reacts. If your dog sniffs back and appears friendly, it may be ready to join the activities inside. If, instead, your dog barks and lunges violently at those inside the fence, it may need more socialization before it will be ready to enter the park.
• Do not bring glass containers into an off-leash area.
• Vaccinate dogs by the recommendation of your veterinarian.
• Dogs must remain under their handler's control and within sight at all times.
• Extend common courtesy to all other users.
• If people using the dog park see items of concern, call city hall at 715-425-0900.