Downtown Cincinnati has made a lot of improvements over the past few years. One of those key upgrades has come in the form of some off-leash playtime for our favorite furry friends.
Chris Wiedeman and a group of local dog-owners sought to create that space. Working with the City of Cincinnati and ODOT in 2010, they were granted permission to use a section of land on Eggleston that rests between Gilbert Avenue and the I-71 overpass. P&G sponsored the project with their then-owned Iams Dog Food brand, and the group held pub crawls to raise additional money to begin construction.
After gathering enough funds, a tall fence was erected and that little patch of land on Eggleston transformed into Fido Field.
It's a 28,000-square-foot plot of land split into a larger and smaller section. Two double-gated entrances face Eggleston; as the field extends northeast, it gradually climbs uphill where there's a third entrance. The hill funnels into Court Street near the pedestrian bridge linking Downtown to Mt. Adams. The majority of the space is covered in astroturf, but a large hill, left natural and un-turfed, abuts Gilbert Avenue.
All of it is open and safe for dogs to be off their leashes. The park is free to use.
Craig Beachler took the reins of the volunteer-run recreation area after Fido Field was established. He and James Matthews, another resident interested in helping maintain the space, experimented with gardening initiatives as well as different ways to make the park safer for pups and more attractive to their owners.
In the ensuing years, Fido Field received major upgrades. Trees grew large enough to provide adequate shade, MAPEI donated enough astroturf to carpet the majority of the space, benches were gifted, and two plastic bags holders were added.
But improvements aren't reserved for just Craig and James. Because Fido Field is volunteer-run, visitors are encouraged to come up with ideas to improve it. As of this writing, one member is planning to build a lean-to that would collect rainwater into a large barrel so owners had another way to fill their dogs' bowls for extra-hot days.
James, who took over for Craig in 2016, is in charge of maintaining the area today. He organizes people to mow the non-turf sections as well as clears the brush on the hill that leans against Gilbert Avenue. The Greater Cincinnati Foundation holds onto the funds needed to provide routine maintenance.
According to James, 2018 will focus on further maintenance. Repairing a bent section of the fence where the crumbling overpass fell onto it is a priority. Replacing signage and fixing the Court Street entrance where a car ran into it is also on the list.
But it's not all going to be just repairs. According to James, they've been thinking of a "formal" rededication of Fido Field after all is said and done. After so many years of building and keeping up with a dog recreation area, the volunteers like James who continue to run it deserve a pat on the back.
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You can visit Fido Field with your own pooch at 630 Eggleston Avenue (45202). If you want to donate to help keep this volunteer-managed play area running, visit The Greater Cincinnati Foundation's website.