Santa Rosa's Spring Lake swimming lagoon was turned into a water dog park Sunday, giving mutts of all shapes, sizes and temperaments a place to splash and swim.

"Everybody deserves a chance to romp and play," said Karen Zurich of Santa Rosa, whose lab and golden retriever mix, Tai, was straining at her leash toward the water. "Marvelous, absolutely marvelous."

It was a first-time event put on by the Sonoma County Parks Department and drew more than 300 dogs, whose owners paid $3 to $5 each.

Park Ranger Beth Wyatt said it was an idea the park staff came up with to raise money to pay the cost of the blue plastic poop bags that are provided free at various park locations.

"Since Spring Lake was closed anyway after Labor Day, we thought why not let the dogs have a go at it," Wyatt said.

The lake has been closed to swimming since Labor Day, with an orange netting erected to close off the lake, which will be drained and cleaned before the winter rainy season, when it acts as a storm catch-basin.

The orange barrier also made a handy fence to keep the dogs in and to keep track of them coming and going.

"We've had a better turnout than expected, which is good," said Assistant Ranger Melissa Shain.

Dogs as small as Chihuahuas and as big as huskies were at the lake, but the predominant dogs were the water dogs, from labs to shepherds, who chased Frisbies, sticks and balls into the lagoon.

"We had a marvelous time," said Jack Montgomery of Santa Rosa, who had a black lab, Raider, at the lake. "He just loves to swim .<TH>.<TH>. he had too good a time."

Montgomery said it is difficult to find places for dogs to swim.

"We have an obliging neighbor, we use their swimming pool," he said. "To find a lake or a reservoir is tough. This is a delight, we had a ball."

"This was great, the dogs are so excited, they don't know what to do," said Kathy Gregorich of Sebastopol, who was there with Maggie, her lab mix. "They are out there in the water and they are not getting yelled out."

The overwhelming sentiment by dog owners was to have the event more often.

"She loved it," said Nick Kersmayki of Santa Rosa, referring to Molly Mo, his 6-year-old cattle dog. "We would come back here once a week if it was open."

Wyatt said the event also meant to bring people to Spring Lake who might otherwise not go there.

"What we are trying to do is encourage different people to use the park, encourage new people to explore the park that might not be here," Wyatt said.

Wyatt said you never know how new events will go over, but "we count this one as a success."

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com.