This weekend I watched a friend with a nontraditional dog run a class at an agility competition. The handler and dog were struggling throughout the course. They got all the way to the last jump (already NQ’d) and the dog missed the last jump. I saw my friend’s body slump and she threw her hands up in despair.
If you thought Young’s Jersey Dairy was a cool place for you to visit while trialing at Champions Center, your fur pets will thank you for taking them to Prairie Oaks MetroPark. Here they can swim and play along a dog beach … unleashed! Located at 2755 Amity Road in Hilliard, OH, it’s about a 30 minute drive from Champions Center. But oh so worth it!
Confusing to find the dog beach section; bit of a hike too
Darby Bend Lakes (note plural) consists of 3 smaller lakes that sprawl along the Darby Lakes entrance road to the MetroPark. There are no signs as to where the dog beach might be at the entrance or at any of the three parking areas. And the truth is, it is roughly the same distance from each of the parking areas to get to the dog beach!
After entering the park, the beach is technically along the first lake on the right side of the road . However, it is at the end of the lake, and to get there, you have to walk across some grass and go over a bridge. That bridge is over a stream connecting two lakes. Once across the bridge, keep walking and not too far down you’ll finally see a sign for the dog beach on your right. It is not fenced in, so if you have a dog that won’t stay around, the leash will have to stay on.
The beach is course gravel and sand, with some grass attempting to grow. The lake also seems to get deep pretty quickly and the water is murky as a result. It still seemed quite clean though. There’s a floating dock that goes out a short ways into the lake, and a small shelter with a bench underneath for a little shade.
Overall my dogs absolutely loved this place. We’d been travelling and they hadn’t had a chance to full out run for several days. So they not only enjoyed the water on such a hot day, but also tore up and down the beach several times. Since it was a weekday when we went and a storm was fast approaching, there weren’t many other dogs there. But they really enjoyed the dogs and handlers that chanced it along with us!
Trails, trails and more trails
The weather didn’t permit us to explore the park, but I picked up a brochure and found no less than eight trails in the park. They range in distance from .7 miles to over 5 miles long, and in challenge levels from easy to difficult.
If hiking isn’t your thing, the park also offers picnic areas, fishing and non-motorized boating. There’s also a restroom with flush toilets and an outdoor faucet for cleaning off the lake water!
Nature abounds at Prairie Oaks MetroPark
The Darby Watershed is nationally recognized for is ecological diversity, and is home to nearly 100 species of fish and 44 species of mussels. Wildlife includes numerous types of birds, white-tailed deer, turkey, and more.
There are three other entrances to the 2,203 acre Prairie Oaks MetroPark, in addition to the Darby Bend Lakes entrance noted above:
Sycamore Planes entrance – has a nice trail that loops over the plains and then winds into the woodlands along Big Darby Creek
Main park entrance – includes two picnic areas, trailhead to the bridle trail, a picnic shelter, and restrooms
Beaver Lake – a small lake for boating and fishing, and a designated “natural” play area where one can wander off trail, climb a tree, dig in the dirt, or just have fun playing outdoors
So if you or anyone in your party is interested in fishing or wildlife-watching during the time you attend the CPE nationals or take your champion agility dog to the beach, you now know the place to go.
Take a break from dog agility trials at Champions Center to enjoy a fun and tasty outing at Young’s Jersey Dairy, where they offer food, fun and even dog-friendly seating at outdoor picnic tables. Just under 20 minutes away at 6880 Springfield Xenia Rd in Yellow Springs, OH, it’s definitely worth the drive!
After finishing a dog agility trial at the Wellness Center in Niles, Ohio, I decided to take the dogs for a walk. We went to Mill Creek MetroParks in Youngstown, about 10 miles away. The park consists of 4,400 acres, with 15 miles of foot trails and 20 miles of road trails. The landscape includes a variety of bridges, ponds, streams, well-tended gardens, boardwalks, rugged walking paths, a huge gorge, and waterfalls.
When the dogs and I are on the road competing, it’s always a treat to find a place where they can swim in the down time between one weekend trial and the next. They got their wish after competing at the agility trial in St. Cloud, MN and before our next trial at Ham Lake. We ventured into Clearwater, about a mile from where we camping at the St. Cloud / Clearwater Campground, and noticed a small river with a nice park alongside called Riverside Park. Some kids were swimming, so we stopped to check it out. The rules did not say anything about prohibiting dogs from swimming …
There are dog parks, and then there are better dog parks. Happy Tails Dog Park at 1701 Court St. in Pekin IL, a few miles from a recent dog agility trial at Avanti’s Dome, is one of the better ones. It is spacious, grassy, has fresh water stations throughout, and contains several growing shade trees in both the small and large dog areas. My dogs loved running in this park, despite the very hot day.