Long-desired dog park planning recommendations provided by Arizona State University graduate students

For the past decade, the city of Apache Junction had difficulty budgeting for the construction of an off-leash dog park.


Devin R. Larsen


Steve Russell, Marshall Curry


Apache Junction, Arizona, USA
Community Size
41,739 (2018 Census Estimation)
Arizona State University
Project Cities
Case Type
Project Stories
School Size
Greater than 40,000
Focus Areas
Economic and Social Inclusion
Public Affairs
EPA Region 9, USA
Community Partner Department
Parks and Recreation, Public Works
Dog Park, Health, Parks, Recreation
University Department Code
Public Affairs
Sustainable Development Goals
11 Sustainable Cities and Communities
Community Population Sizes
41739 (2018 Census Estimation)
Population Type
Pet Owners

Since 2008, the City of Apache Junction has developed three plans for an off-leash dog park. However, due to the Great Recession and other municipal financial decisions, these plans have yet to move past the drawing board. While financial barriers held the project back from city council approval, public support for an off-leash dog park remained high. For this reason, Apache Junction wanted to find affordable alternatives and new funding sources to finally create such a playspace for residents and their furry friends.

Apache Junction invited an ASU Project Cities graduate course, and its students to partner in the planning and site analysis to prepare for the city’s long-desired off-leash dog park.

A member of the EPIC-Network, Arizona State University’s (ASU) Project Cities “connects higher education with local communities.”

Project Cities paired this local initiative with a Public Affairs Capstone course. The students began by raising questions for staff to answer, from “Which dog park features do Apache Junction citizens desire the most?” to “Which features are the costliest to implement and maintain?” Other students conducted research throughout surrounding communities to comparative how other Arizona cities utilize different fundraising strategies to construct their own dog parks. 

By employing an array of research methods, from surveying and field observations to literature review, the graduate students analyzed the pros and cons of various siting options and potential costs of installation. This analysis identified possible paths forward—solutions Apache Junction could administer to bring the off-leash dog park to life.

Thanks to investigative analysis and research conducted by the participating ASU graduate students, Apache Junction identified multiple considerations—how construction might be funded, what amenities residents wanted present—for the off-leash dog park.  Recommendations related to these findings included some of the following: 

  • Ensuring the site is at least 1 acre in size and offers shade, water, and waste stations.
  • Locating the park near a residential area or as an extension of a larger community park.Allocating funds for development from other Parks and Recreation or delayed projects.

Apache Junction now has more of the necessary information based off of the ASU Project Cities student recommendations to determine which planned dog park is best suited for their community. The city council and government now has three dog park plans in their possession, each varying in price, from a park with basic features to a more complex, expensive park intended to better serve the city’s dog owners.

Arizona State University Project Cities Contact
Steven Russell
Program Manager

City of Apache Junction Contact
Larry Kirch
Development Services
City of Apache Junction

Read the full story of the partnership.

Read the final student report delivered to the local gov/community partner.

University Capital

Classes 1 Classes
Students 7 Students
Hours 945 Hours
Disciplines 1 Disciplines
Projects 1 Projects
Faculty Members 1 Faculty Members

Community Results

Community Satisfaction

“The city of Apache Junction was extremely fortunate to be the inaugural city for the Project Cities program. The city, community residents, ASU students, faculty and staff worked on a total of nine different projects.”

Return on Investment

44% of residents surveyed by ASU graduate students revealed that the shade was the most important amenity for a dog park, while water and waste stations were deemed second and third in importance.

Sustainable Path Forward

76% of VCA Apache Junction Animal Hospital participants surveyed by ASU graduate students indicated they would pay an annual membership fee to use an off-leash dog park.

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