NORFOLK — Edwin Gomez never had a dog until he started researching dog parks.
The Old Dominion University professor of human movement sciences remembers driving by the Colonial Place Dog Park and seeing pups playing in a fenced-in field. He wondered, “What is that?”
“I didn’t know what it was,” Gomez said. “I didn’t even know if dog park was a correct set of words.”
“I was intrigued that this resource manifested itself. I was interested in what are the benefits that people who use this park gain from it,” he added. “Why a dog park and not a cat park?”
Now, the professor has two dogs and nearly 15 years in dog park research behind him. He’s asking Norfolk residents to help him continue his research by filling out a survey about their perception on the city’s dog parks.
And he wants everyone’s opinion on the city’s 12 dog parks — not just pet owners.
“Dog parks are the number one sort of planning initiative in most municipal park and recreation districts across the country,” Gomez said. “We’re trying to get a comprehensive look at what everyone feels about this resource.”
The research comes as ODU has been awarded a $34,000 grant from the Stanton Foundation, created by Dr. Frank Stanton, a man who loved animals.
“In his later years he found a love for animals and companion animals, so he set up a foundation to do research on dogs,” Gomez said.
Gomez added that ODU was awarded the grant for its location in Norfolk, which has the second-highest amount of dog parks per person in the United States, second only to Seattle.
Gomez and his team, which includes ODU professor Lindsay Usher and four student workers, are using the money to distribute the survey, conduct five focus groups, analyze data and formulate a final report. The team will also be giving away 20 Amazon gift cards worth $50 each to sweeten the deal for participants.
The city has helped Gomez get the word out about the survey, and in return, officials will get a copy of the findings. The results may be used to help plan and improve dog parks in Norfolk and across the country.
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