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FIRST RUN was established before much was known about constructing healthy, off-leash areas for dogs. First Run is currently working with New York Parks Department to renovate the run. Here are some answers to questions about the proposed renovation.

It costs a lot of money and effort to maintain FIRST RUN. Please donate your time or contribute to our fund raising and your dog will thank you.

What improvements does the renovation offer? Can I see the plans?

Parks has promised to show us plans before we begin fundraising. There will also be time for the community to look at them and make recommendations.

The bulk of the cost for the renovation goes for digging out the run and the new surface. Other features include:

A newly constructed drinking fountain and bath area for the large dog run
Plumbing and water for the small dog run
New entrance area with wheel chair access
Lighting at the gate
New entrance to the small dog run
New fencing to replace the broken inner fences
A permanent and safe fence between the large and small dog runs

How much will the project cost?

The proposed renovation will cost in excess of $150,000. The city is asking the FIRST RUN community to raise $65,000 -- NY Parks Department will double your pledge with matching funds.

What's the problem with the old surface? My dog likes its.

The woodchips were a good, temporary solution when First Run was first established however they have posed multiple problems for long term use. They must be constantly added to the surface of the run every 4-6 weeks and quickly breakdown forming a dusty crust that prevents water from reaching the roots of the trees. In addition, this breakdown adds 12-24 inches to the top surface of the run which needs to be excavated every 5-7 years further endangering the roots of trees and preventing maintenance to the fences and surrounding gardens. In recent years, beatle blight has further endangered the trees in many of New York's historic parks. Moving chips from one park to another facilitates the spread of the disease so Parks has drastically reduced the supply of chips into Tompkins Square in order to protect that park's ancient elm and oak trees.

Will the new surface be a layer of gravel like Washington Square or Pete's Run in Madison Square park?

No, it will be much softer on the paws. The top surface will consists of 9 inches of natural, decomposed granite which will cover a much deeper layer of gravel to facilitate drainage so there will be no puddles and no problems with water reaching the trees. Decomposed granite is reddish-brown in color. Millions of years ago it started out as granite rock but has "decomposed" into a soft, dirt-like material. However, it is heavier than dirt so it creates less dust and and facilitates drainage. It is envirnomentally safe and animal friendly. In fact, it is the #1 surface recommended by animal interest groups for use in dog parks, outdoor kennels and horse corals. It is also a recommended soil additive used in the vineyards to grow grapes in Napa Valley.

What are the benefits?

It is much healthier for the dogs and easy on their paws and hips. It is easier to clean so there will be less fecal contamination. It dries quickly so it doesn't provide a breeding ground for gardia, lepto or parasitic worms. Nor does it provide a nice place for ticks to hide out in. You can also stop worrying about intestinal punctures from your dog eating wood chips.

Where can I see this new surface in action?

First Run will be the first dog park in the Northeast to utilize this surface. Many of the newly renovated dog parks on the west coast - where decomposed granite is plentiful -- have adopted this surface as a standard.

Will it magically make all the dust and bad smells go away?

Not completely, but it should clear up 90% of the problem. The new surface will also dry quicker and wash itself in the rain.


First Run is New York City's largest off-leash dog park. "Friends of First Run" is an official 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the maintenance, fiscal support and safety of the Tompkins Square Dog Run.