After almost a decade of being dog-gone, Walnut Street Bridge soon will be dog-on.
To celebrate a new rule allowing dogs on the bridge, there will be an inaugural ceremony, ribbon cutting and first walk for dogs at 2 p.m. Saturday at the south end of the bridge, said Larry Zehnder, administrator for the Chattanooga Parks and Recreation Department.
This will be the first time in nearly a decade that dogs are allowed on the bridge. Previous attempts have led to problems because of "irresponsible dog owners not paying attention to what their dog was doing," Zehnder said.
The change comes after two years of partnership between the Parks and Recreation Department and DOGood Chattanooga, a group that aims to educate dog owners on the responsibilities of maintaining a dog-friendly city, Zehnder said.
IF YOU GO
What: Opening ceremony to allow dogs on the Walnut Street Bridge
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: South end of Walnut Street Bridge, near the Hunter Museum of American Art
Information: It is open to all dogs and owners.
WHAT TO EXPECT
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Following the ceremony, dogs can sample different treats at "Yappy Hour" from 4-6 p.m. at Greenlife Grocery on Manufacturers Road.
Karen Roach, organizer of DOGood Chattanooga, said the bridge would be helpful for dog owners because it connects two dog-friendly parks, Ross's Landing and Renaissance Park.
"The Market Street Bridge is very noisy and dangerous for walking dogs, and the Veterans Bridge only has a sidewalk on one side," Roach said in an e-mail. "So now residents and visitors can travel from one side of the river to the other with their dogs without having to drive a car."
The change is due in part to the 650 pledges collected by DOGood Chattanooga and signed by dog owners who agreed to clean up after their dogs, Roach said.
But not everyone is in favor of opening the bridge to dogs.
Zehnder said he has received some e-mails from people with concerns about the safety of children and the cleanliness of the park, but said he hoped responsible dog owners would help children and dogs coexist in the area.
Dr. Tai Federico, veterinarian at Riverview Animal Hospital, whose office collected more than 600 signatures on a petition to open the bridge to dogs, said he did not think safety issues would be a problem. However, there is always the possibility if an owner cannot control his or her dog, he said.
"For a lot of people, a walk just isn't a walk without their dog," Federico said.
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