Grassroots community effort gets Old Seminole Heights a dog park

The new Henry and Ola Dog Park is a spacious 10,600-square-foot playground for canines in Tampa’s Old Seminole Heights neighborhood.

For Tampa, it’s the 17th dog park in the city limits. For the neighborhood, it’s the culmination of a years-long grassroots community effort to get a dog park.

“We started this about 11 years ago,” recalls resident Mauricio Rosas. “We formed what we called the Seminole Heights Dog Pack to bring attention to the need for a dog park here.”

Andrew Carranza joined the effort when he moved to the neighborhood five years ago. Carranza, whose son went to summer camp at the Henry and Ola Park years back, initially pushed for a new, larger recreation center to replace the aging facility on site. Eventually, he worked with the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association on a survey drive to get community input on what the neighborhood wanted for the park. In a neighborhood where residents had turned to using a softball field to run their dogs, there was overwhelming support for a dog park.

The new $150,000 park, which opened in early February, features newly-lanted trees, fresh turf, benches, a picnic table, an ADA-accessible dog fountain and a dog waste station. Red maple trees planted during the project may reach up to 60 feet at maturity.

The Seminole Heights Dog Pack and other residents have so far been making good use of their brand-new dog park, Rosas says.

“Literally it is busy all day long,” he says.

Carranza says some residents might have the room in their backyards to get their dogs some exercise but the dog park brings the community together.

“You’re not going to meet your neighbors in your backyard,” he says.

Carranza credits City Council member Guido Maniscalo for being a longtime advocate of the dog park who helped make it a reality. He says Council member Lynn Hurtak, who lives in the neighborhood and brings her dog to the park, has also been an advocate in office.

As development continues to bring more residents to the neighborhood, Rosas and Carranza say recreation improvements should be seen as infrastructure projects to accommodate growth. Carranza hopes the dog park is a starting point for needed upgrades at Henry and Ola Park and other neighborhood parks throughout the city. A 2023 report said the city needed $740 million worth of improvements at nearly 200 parks.

For more information, go to Tampa dog parks.
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Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry has been a writer for the 83 Degrees Media team since 2017. Chris also served as the development editor for a time before assuming the role of managing editor in May 2022. Chris lives in Clearwater. His professional career includes more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys the local music scene, the warm winters and Tampa Bay's abundance of outdoor festivals and events. When he's not working or spending time with family, he can frequently be found hoofing the trails at one of Pinellas County's nature parks.