A few weeks ago I was formally busted by a Collier County Park Ranger. The Ranger caught me walking my dog through Mar-Good Harbor Park, which is county-owned. The park was once privately owned and was used as an RV park, bar and Goodland museum. It was a gathering place for the community. The lot was sold to the county and designated as a Collier County Park to avoid the building of condos and to allow the community to use it as they pleased. It is now a beautiful open field which holds an abandoned building and a small, fenced-in playground for children. Walking my dog through the park, which may be entered right across from the post office, was a morning ritual. As I was approached by the park ranger I was told that there is a sign at the park that clearly says, “No Dogs Allowed.” Maybe the bleach from my hair dye has sunken in too far but I responded, “I thought the sign meant no German Shepherds.” Unfortunately, I was told that the picture of a German Shepherd with a line through it was the “international symbol” for no dogs. This also means that the martini with a line through it means no alcohol of any kind; not just martinis. Darn.
Two weeks later, busted again. And by the same park ranger! She was extremely kind even though I had promised not to walk through the park again. There was no getting out of this one, especially since it was explained to me earlier that it is not just German Shepherds that are being discriminated against at the park. We had a very nice conversation, however, and I promised that I would no longer walk my dog through Mar-Good Harbor Park. I have stuck to that promise and will continue to do so, but this doesn’t mean that I’m not going to try to do something about it. After talking to a number of Goodlanders, who also thought the sign meant “No German Shepherds,” I was told to contact Collier County Commissioner, Donna Fiala. She would explain to me why we cannot have dogs in the park. One short email later I received a quick response from Ms. Fiala as well as an email from Barry Williams, the director of Collier County Parks and Recreation.
I was very pleased with their speedy responses and detailed answers. I was informed that the county has many plans for the park which will take place in the next few years. It was also explained to me that no dogs are allowed in any Collier County Parks – for legal reasons, I’m sure. Marco Island, however, has a fenced-in dog park at Mackle Park and allows people to walk their leashed dogs at Veteran’s Park. If Marco can have a park where dogs are allowed to be walked on a leash, why can’t Goodland? We are all a part of Collier County, after all.
So, here’s my idea. A number of years ago, the issue of golf carts being driven around in Goodland was up for debate. Goodland is known for its golf carts and so a petition was started to keep this tradition alive. The people of Goodland won their battle with the county by banding together to keep Goodland in the form we are all accustomed to. I believe that a petition to allow people to walk their dogs through Mar-Good Harbor park, as long as they clean up after them, would be a great way to show what a dog-friendly community we are. I have also been in contact with the Goodland Civic Association, which is supporting the idea.
I encourage all those who live in Goodland to sign this petition. There will be more information regarding the petition posted on the board by the post office. For those of you who know me come find me and we can add your name to the petition. I will also be leading a door-to-door campaign. Let’s all stand up and make a difference. We can give our pets a safe place to walk and become political acti-vists at the same time! Who knows how far we can take this? Maybe one day we will all be drinking martinis with our leashed dogs, German Shepherds or not, in Mar-Good Harbor Park, just as we did only a few years ago.
Natalie Strom has lived in Goodland for over two years and has worked in Goodland on and off for more than five years. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa and is also a former Buzzard Queen of Stan’s Idle Hour in Goodland.