Those who look forward each fall to an opportunity to treat their pets to a frolic in the swimming lagoon at Spring Lake Regional Park can anticipate even more fun this fall, with a record seven Spring Lake Water Bark dates scheduled over the next month.
The canine pool parties are so well-attended that the Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation is even selling $30 season passes for the first time, reducing the overall cost for those who partake multiple times and allowing for more efficient entry at the gate.
“We heard loud and clear that guests wanted more dates for their dogs to swim, and we’ve nearly doubled the number of dates since 2016,” Foundation Executive Director Melissa Kelley said in a written news release.
“People love this event,” Kelley said in an interview. “We start getting phone calls — the Parks Foundation, Regional Parks — we all get phone calls starting in May and June saying, ‘When is the water park going to be? When is it going to be?’ “
Launched in 2011, the water barks were designed to offer refreshing fun and freedom to animals usually required to be on leash during play at public parks and beaches.
Converting the swimming lagoon for dog use also is a way to extend its season. The lagoon usually closes to humans after Labor Day.
There are few sights more joyous than a dog playing in water — splashing, leaping, swimming or chasing after a toy.
Put scores of them together, and the event is equally appealing to dogs and their human friends.
Kelley said she talked to one woman who spoke of loving the event and asked about her dog. “And she said, ‘I don’t have a dog. I just like to watch!’ “ Kelley said.
“It’s fun when dogs get to be dogs,” said Sarah Trejo of Santa Rosa, whose golden retrievers, Marnie and Poppy, often participate.
The water barks were a hit right from the start and have expanded in the years since.
As many as 500 dogs have attended water bark events in the past, bringing a “new flavor” to Spring Lake’s programming, Regional Parks Director Bert Whitaker said.
“That’s been a fun one to watch the last couple of years,” he said. “It’s definitely been a game changer.”
Proceeds benefit the nonprofit parks foundation, which helps raise funds for park improvements and trails and advocates for the more than 56 parks, trails and beaches in the regional park system.
Shannon Rake of Santa Rosa said her 8-year-old yellow lab, A.J., has grown up going to the Spring Lake lagoon.
“We go every year,” said Rake. “She loves it. She loves the water.
“You can’t take your dog anywhere off leash,” Rake continued. “It’s kind of the only legit place you can.”
Park maintenance personnel install snow-fencing around the lagoon to ensure dogs don’t run off while they’re playing.
The water is filtered and slightly chlorinated, as is the case during human swimming season, and is tested each week to ensure it meets water quality standards, Kelley said.
Organizers also provide hundreds of balls for the event, so there’s no shortage of opportunities to play fetch.