Dogs, owners have a ball at Palmer Park’s new dog park

The $500,000 space opened on National Dog Day.

A crowd of people and their dogs squeeze into Palmer Park dog park during the grand opening.

A crowd makes its way into Palmer Park dog park during the grand opening.

A brand new dog park has opened up at Palmer Park in Detroit. The City of Detroit surveyed residents to figure out where to put the dog facility inside Palmer Park and they landed on a space near the 12th police precinct on 7 Mile Road. The roughly one-acre space opened on Aug. 26, National Dog Day.

“People for Palmer Park has wanted a dog park for over a dozen years. We’ve been told by the community, by our neighbors at all kinds of meetings a dog park was a special place that we really needed to have in Palmer Park,” says Barbara Barefield, the chair of the events committee for the People for Palmer Park, a nonprofit that advocates for the park and runs some programming there in partnership with the City of Detroit.

The $500,000, fenced-in dog park has trees, benches, boulders and a walking path. It’s separated into two areas, one that’s meant for little dogs and another that’s meant for big dogs.

A dog owner wearing a headband, shades, and bag holds her dog on a leash in front of the gates to Palmer Park dog park.
Detroiter Sharon Sexton holds her pooch Natchez, “like Natchez Mississippi.”

Detroit City Councilwoman Angela Whitfield Calloway, who represents District 2 – where the park is located – was among those in attendance at the park’s grand opening event.

“I do a lot of ribbon cuttings but by far this is the best ribbon cutting I’ve ever participated in,” said Calloway. “We’re affecting the lives of humans and our animals, our dogs. They’re happy, we’re happy.”

Dozens of residents and their dogs were also in attendance. Among them was a gold-colored pooch named Natchez and his owner, Detroiter Sharon Sexton. Sexton said the one time she took Natchez to a dog park, no other dogs were there.

“So, I think he’s just taking it all in. He’s looking around. He’s listening to the barks. He’s trying to see who he wants to be friends with,” she said.

Sexton says she’s only taken Natchez to dog parks a couple times because there aren’t any dog parks in Detroit’s Islandview neighborhood where she lives.

A lady in a jean jacket holds up her Shih Tzu.
Detroiter Janet Williams holds up her Shih Tzu Paisley.

There are less than 10 official dog parks in the city and all of them except the Palmer Park dog park seem to be located in the greater downtown area. Cadillac Square, Capitol Park, and Grand Circus dog parks are all downtown. There’s a dog park in Midtown, Rose Dog Park in Woodbridge, Detroit Dog Park in Corktown, and Riverside Dog Park in Southwest Detroit. Additionally, WDET was told there’s an unofficial dog park at Balduck Park on Detroit’s east side and there may be other grassroots dog parks around the city.

Detroiter Janet Williams says she and her Shih Tzu Paisley have spent time at quite a few of these spots.

“She’s a dog park person. I take her to dog parks, I go to Riverside, I go to different places in the city,” Williams said.

Little Paisley has made a bunch of friends at parks during the pandemic. She even got a boyfriend, a Shih Tzu poodle mix.

“We haven’t seen him in months. But when they see each other they stop and freeze like, you know, like a romance,” said Williams. “People always say, ‘What – do you need to get a room?’”

A Cavapoo wears a Tigers t-shirt.
Cavapoo “Peanut” strikes a pose in his Tigers t-shirt.

Also at the grand opening, on the big dog side of the fence, a 12-pound pooch sporting a Tigers t-shirt ran around with his tongue hanging out. Owner Karen Watson said her tiny Cavapoo (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and poodle mix) named Peanut can hang on either side of the fence.

“He likes the small dog side but he’s got some buddies over here on the big dog side, too. So we came to mix and mingle,” said Watson.

Detroiters Cheryl Harris and Latoria Williams brought their pit bull terrier, Black Beauty, to the new dog park on a leash even though leashes aren’t required inside the fenced-off area.

“She never seen this many dogs at once,” said Harris. “She’s overwhelmed.”

Two women stand with a pitbull terrier on a leash inside the park.
Detroiters Cheryl Harris and Latoria Williams with Black Beauty, or “BB,” a pitbull terrier.

Speaking with Williams and WDET at the grand opening event, Harris was surprised to learn that the dog park cost $500,000 to build out.

“Just this little bit cost $500,000? Where the dog pool at? Where the dog Jacuzzi?”

Detroit eastsider Yulanda Burgess, who grew up not far from Palmer Park, brought her stout English lab, Shiloh to the park’s grand opening and was impressed by the improvements she saw.

“It’s good to see more positive things coming into the city,” she said. “We would like to hang on to some of the things in the past, but you gotta listen to what the public wants. And this is one of the things that they, I guess, people expressed is having the dog park. So this is great.”

A woman sits by a bench with three dogs in front of her.
Detroiter Yulanda Burgess watches as her English Lab, Shiloh, (right) makes some friends.

An ad-hoc committee known as Palmer Park Unleashed is planning to host events and programming at the new dog park. The group has also posted etiquette and safety guidelines for the park on its website.


  • Laura Herberg
    Laura Herberg is a Reporter for 101.9 WDET, telling the stories about people inhabiting the Detroit region and the issues that affect us here.