Lee, Hyung-Sook (2007-08). A study of use patterns, user satisfaction and willingness to pay for off-leash dog parks: post-occupancy evaluations of four dog parks in Texas and Florida. Doctoral Dissertation.
The growing importance of dogs in people's lives and in high-density urban environments has increased demand for a place where people and their dogs can interact and exercise together. The recent increase in the number of dog parks across the country is evidence of these demands of dog owners and their companions. However, due to the absence of empirical study on dog parks and their attribute of non-market values, the benefits of dog parks are often underestimated and considered less in the decision making process regarding resource allocation. A post-occupancy evaluation at four dog parks was conducted to investigate use patterns of dog parks and user activities, to identify user preferences and the environmental factors influencing activities, to provide insights and guidelines in developing effective dog parks, and to estimate users' willingness to pay for dog parks using contingent valuation method. A multiple-method approach was used to collect data including site observations and analysis, a questionnaire and behavioral mapping. The results indicated that dog parks received considerable use, served a variety of demographic groups and supported their exercise and social activities. Dog-park users were generally satisfied with dog parks but they expressed various preferences and needs. It is evident that dog parks are not only a place for dogs to exercise but a place for people to exercise, socialize, relax and enjoy greenery just like other parks. Proximity of dog parks was found to be a critical factor in encouraging frequent dog park use and satisfying users' needs. Over eighty percent of survey respondents expressed that they were willing to pay an annual fee for dog parks, indicating the importance of visiting dog parks as outdoor recreation. Conservative estimate of average willingness to pay was $56.17/ household/ year. Satisfaction with maintenance and facilities, income, education and family size were found to be significantly associated with willingness to pay. These results could assist local governments and park planners in estimating aggregate monetary value of the dog parks and cost-benefit analysis to justify the development and maintenance of dog parks. Design guidelines and recommendations were generated based on the empirical findings for future design of dog parks.