This 25-acre site is a dog's dream! You have to see it to believe it: a very large grassy area, hills, separate fenced area, trees and even a pond. Please note the perimeter fence does not completely surround the pond. If your dog swims across the pond, it will be able to exit the off leash recreation area.
*Map not to scale
Bloomington off-leash site rules
- Dogs must be licensed in the city that you live in for licensure requirements
- Dogs must be under voice control at all times.
- Dog handlers must closely supervise their dogs and be within view.
- Dog handlers must have leashes in hand at all times.
- Clean up after your dog.
- Children must be supervised.
- Maximum two dogs per handler.
- Leash dogs while entering and exiting the area.
From 169: Go East on Old Shakopee Road to Nesbitt. Go south on Nesbitt -- the road turns into 111th Street. The off-leash recreation area will be on your right.
From the east: Follow Old Shakopee Road west to Nesbitt. Go south on Nesbitt -- the road turns into 111th Street. The off-leash recreation area will be on your right.
New Fence Installation (Nov. 2019)
In November 2019, Bloomington’s Off-Leash area will become safer for our four-legged friends. The pond on the north edge of the park has always been accessible, but it is partially privately owned, holds storm water runoff that could contain contaminants, and has served as an escape route for dogs to swim across in summer and run across in winter. To remedy this, City of Bloomington Park Maintenance will install new fencing connecting the northern and southeastern portions of the existing fence line, rendering the pond inaccessible, improve safety, and still maintaining most of the scenic woodland along the pond shore.
UPDATE 11/21/19: With the assistance of park user input regarding the southeastern terminus of the new fence line eliminating access to a large wooded area south of the pond, City staff have consulted with the fencing contractor to adjust the layout to include more of the wooded area. (see revised overhead view below)
UPDATE 1/10/20: Weather permitting, construction will begin the week of January 13 on the winter Pond and Stormwater Maintenance Project. There are two sites involved with this project. Work at Ford Pond will begin with the installation of a temporary pump system that will involve a slight disruption to the adjacent Off-Leash Dog Park at 11000 Nesbitt Ave. The work will be fenced off to keep dogs out and should be in place until mid-February. Work at Nine Mile Creek will consist of restoring a portion of streambank that is threatening the access trail from Queen Avenue.
Myths and misconceptions
Off-leash areas have been successfully implemented and maintained throughout the U.S. for over a decade. Often, some people oppose these areas due to the common myths and misconceptions about off-leash areas. In reality, these areas provide great benefits not only to dogs, but also to the community at large. After considerable research of other cities that have successful off-leash programs, we have learned the following:
Hordes of loose dogs will over-run the city.
Untrue. Bloomington's off-leash area has fencing and natural barriers. The sign at the entryway alerts the public that this area is for off-leash enjoyment and leash laws will be in effect everywhere else in the city.
My child or dog will be viciously attacked.
Untrue. There has never been a single serious injury reported in any off-leash area to our knowledge - it simply hasn't happened. As a Minneapolis attorney commented, "There is less liability in an off-leash area than in most other park activities." Off-leash areas are neutral territories for visiting dogs, so it is highly unlikely that they will try to protect their turf. Dogs prefer to work things out in their groups peacefully, much as humans do. Plus, animal behaviorists have known for years that dogs are less likely to be aggressive with each other when off-leash than when they are on leash!
Children under adult supervision will be allowed in the off-leash areas, but parents are advised to use common sense, especially with very small children. Dogs while playing can inadvertently bump into children, which may frighten them. Dogs known to be aggressive are not permitted to use these areas.
The noise and stench will be overwhelming.
Untrue. Well-exercised and well-socialized dogs are much quieter in public areas and at home. So the more running and playing a dog does, the less likely that it will play-bark or engage in nuisance barking. The cities we consulted reported that nuisance barking was not a problem in their off-leash areas.
A strict "pick up" policy will be in effect at all locations and it is everyone's responsibility to keep the areas clean. Extra plastic bags and trashcans will be provided at the site and the trash will be emptied regularly. The experience of other cities shows that once there are legal off-leash areas, there is stronger peer pressure to pick up dog droppings and trash and these areas tend to be far cleaner than other public areas of the city.
The vegetation and grass will be destroyed and the fencing will be unsightly.
Untrue. The size of the off-leash area will help ensure that there is plenty of room to spread out to decrease pressure on vegetation. Areas of high use (entryways, common paths) may need wood chips or other material, as is already done in many city parks. Part of the design and calculated maintenance is for beautification projects, such as vines or shrubs around fencing to camouflage it. There are many types of fencing available that can be quite unobtrusive or even very attractive. The type of fencing used will depend on how much money is allocated from the city and raised from private donors (such as you).
It's too expensive.
Untrue. Aside from initial start-up costs to pay for fencing, signage, and amenities such as trash cans, it costs very little to maintain the areas. Unlike softball fields or hockey rinks, off-leash areas require very little maintenance beyond trash removal, occasional mowing or snow removal. It has been proposed that a modest increase in dog licensing fees would pay for any maintenance costs. In fact, making off-leash areas a benefit of dog registration would lead to more dog registrations and increased revenue for the city.
Off-leash areas are a great neighborhood gathering places. Experience shows that off-leash areas build strong neighborhoods and communities. Crime has decreased in many cities near the off-leash areas and people who normally would not talk to each other will start conversations when a dog is there to break the ice. So neighbors get to know each other, friendships are made and romances can even bloom!
Off-leash recreation area tips
Please, park only in the designated off-leash parking lot. Do not park in the local business' parking lots and cut across the property. Stay on the city property and respect the rights of the local property owners. If you find that the parking lot is full, please call Parks and Recreation and let us know so that we can address the problem.
A current dog license is required for entrance into the Off-Leash Area. Residents may purchase their dog license at Bloomington City Hall (1800 West Old Shakopee Road) during business hours. Proof of rabies vaccination is required. Check with the city you live in for licensure requirements.
New users should try to visit the area at non-peak times. Peak times are after work on Monday-Friday and midday on weekends.
The first visit can be somewhat stressful for both you and your dog. You may be unsure about how your dog will behave. Your dog, if not well socialized, may be worried by the presence of other dogs and people. Stress and anxiety could ruin the experience for you and your dog(s), so try to keep those initial visits short and happy.
Practical rules for off-leash areas
1. Pick up Poop! Always! Everywhere!
Yes, even in the long grass and the woods, and especially near paths or water. Deposit poop in trash barrels.
- Show some respect! Don't leave your dog's mess for others to step in, look at, or clean up.
- This area is not maintained by tax-supported city workers. It's your job to keep it clean.
- Thousands of dogs use this area, and poop accumulates faster than it degrades.
- Some dogs EAT poop - don't add to the misery of their owners!
- Poop run-off pollutes our ponds, lakes and streams with nutrients.
- POOP KILLS public opinion and undermines the reputation of all dog owners.
2. Keep your dog leashed until you are within the off-leash boundary.
Off-leash dogs are in violation of park rules until they are within the boundary of the off-leash site. Noncompliance generates complaints to the city and threatens the existence of this off-leash area. We've worked hard to get this space; please don't ruin it for the rest of us!
Note: Leashed dogs often feel threatened when other dogs approach them. They may bark, growl, or even lunge to ward off perceived threats, triggering a similar response in other dogs. This is why people who walk their dogs on-leash are often afraid of off-leash dogs, so please respect the off-leash boundary. This is also why it can be difficult to control your leashed dog when passing other dogs in the parking lot or on the access paths. Keep as much distance as you can from the other dogs. You may even step aside and wait until another dog passes. Try to focus your dog's attention on you rather than the other dog. Move quickly and calmly past the dog. Once your leashed dog no longer has eye contact with the passing dog, your dog should calm down.
3. Let your dog off-leash as soon as you are through the fence.
If you are worried about unleashing your dog or letting it run with a training line (see next paragraph), please reconsider your reasons for using the off-leash area. For the reasons discussed above, leashed dogs can be very disruptive for the off-leash area. It's unfair to your dog to expect it to behave as if the free dogs were not present and it's unrealistic to expect the free dogs to ignore your dog.
For those of you who are still working on your recalls, or if it's your first visit and you are unsure how your dog will behave, keep a long training line attached to the dog's collar (it's much easier to catch them). Drop the line and let the dog run freely. Periodically call your dog to you and run away from the dog. Your dog should suddenly become more interested in following you than in running away or ignoring you. Praise and reward your dog when it comes to you. Repeat this exercise each time you visit the site. ALWAYS reward a success!
4. Keep walking! Avoid the temptation to congregate at the entrance.
Walking helps the dogs perceive the site as neutral territory, which minimizes turf battles and other canine misunderstandings. Remember that all dogs have a natural instinct to defend their space, and some dogs have a stronger instinct than others do. If you have one of those "friendly" dogs, try not to let it run up and greet an unfamiliar dog. From a dog's point of view, especially shy dogs or well-trained dogs, this kind of behavior can be seen as rude or threatening. That "friendly" dog may provoke a natural correction response from the other dog. Keep your groups small and keep walking!
5. Supervise your dog at all times.
KNOW YOUR DOG. Avoid situations that are likely to cause problems for your dog or other dogs. Be willing to work with other dog owners to prevent incidents. Leash and leave the site if your dog is having a bad day or is showing signs of unacceptable behavior.
Understand that dogs have different temperaments and play styles. Some dogs are aloof and don't like to play, some seem quite rough in their play, and some are party animals and will attempt to provoke a chase by nipping or barking. Educate yourself on dog behavior, observe your dog's response to situations, and ask questions. A behavior that concerns you may simply be a more rambunctious play style or an invitation to chase. On the other hand, owners of rambunctious dogs must be sensitive to the needs of shy dogs and be ready to move to other parts of the site to prevent incidents.
Beware of breaking up dogfights. Do NOT reach in to pull the dogs apart. A good approach is to carry a water bottle and squirt water in the dogs' faces to distract them. Once the dogs are distracted, you can separate the dogs more safely.
6. Supervise children closely.
- Keep your child close and do not allow running, screaming or biking.
- Many dogs were not raised with children. A child who screams or runs can trigger a dog's prey instincts (chasing or biting).
- Do not give your child treats to pass out to strange dogs. Treats can create competition between dogs and your child might be caught in the middle.
- Do not allow your child to approach strange dogs without permission from the owner. Many dogs have little experience with children. A strange dog could feel challenged by a child's overly friendly approach and may snap or growl.
7. Keep the area safe and clean.
Pick up cigarette butts and other trash. Keep the water jug supply to a minimum, throw away damaged jugs, and secure the empty jugs so that they don't blow around. Fill any holes that your dog digs so that others don't step in them and hurt themselves. Recycle your small plastic bags by bringing them to replenish the poop bag supply.
8. Take responsibility for the actions of your dog.
Remember, by law you are liable for damage and injuries inflicted by your dog. Offer to pay for vet bills, doctor bills and replace damaged property. Involved persons should exchange names and phone numbers. Report serious incidents. Report serious incidents by calling 911.
9. Be a responsible dog owner.
- Keep licenses and vaccinations up to date.
- Spay or neuter your dog.
- Train your dog in basic obedience.
- Educate yourself about dog behavior (many books, magazines and websites are available).
The scoop on poop
Many people believe that disposing poop in the trash is environmentally irresponsible. In fact, it's the dog poop left on the ground that poses the greater environmental threat. We all know that poop is "fertilizer," but we may not all realize that these nutrients flow directly, or via storm sewers, to our lakes, ponds and streams. Leaving poop near water, on sloped ground, or on paved surfaces is irresponsible and the real consequence is water pollution!
Other people believe that it's OK to let the poop biodegrade "as nature intended." However, biodegradation is a slow process, especially when the weather is cold. With the large number of dogs using off-leash areas, poop accumulates faster than it degrades. The accumulation exposes our pets to harmful parasites and our shoes, cars and homes to unpleasant dog poop contamination (do you know what your dog is stepping in?). Also, there are some dogs that EAT poop. Please don't add to their diet!
Few people realize that the most important reason to pick up poop is to help reform our reputation with the general public. Abandoned poop piles foster the notion that dog owners are rude and irresponsible, and that dogs are a public nuisance. Indeed, we cannot defend a dog owner who lets their dog poop in a public space (or in somebody's yard) and then leaves the mess for others to smell, look at, step in or clean up. Like it or not, off-leash recreation is a controversial issue for local governments and there is a strong anti-dog sentiment that persists in the political process. Dog poop tops the list of complaints about dogs, far exceeding concerns about dog aggression and public safety. POOP KILLS public opinion! And public opinion is what matters most in efforts to obtain recreational space that we can enjoy with our dogs.
Please understand that these off-leash areas are maintained entirely by the goodwill of site users, not by tax-supported public servants. Your action sets an example, good or bad, for others who use these areas. There may be a time that you find yourself without a bag or simply miss seeing your dog "do its business." Please pick up a stray poop pile to offset that pile that someone else picks up for YOU! Better yet, carry extra bags to offer would-be offenders or pick up a few stray piles along the path. It's everyone's job to help keep our site clean.
Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.