For the first time in a decade pet owners and their dogs got to walk across the Walnut Street Bridge on Saturday.
"We've never been able to walk across the bridge as a family before," said Karen Roach, who walked with her husband, Ronnie, and two dogs.
Mrs. Roach was among hundreds of dog lovers who endured sweltering temperatures to mark the bridge's reopening after a $1.4 million renovation. The group also celebrated the city's decision to allow dogs on the bridge again.
Former Chattanooga Times Publisher Ruth Holmberg, retired police chief Freeman Cooper and radio personality Luther Massengill participated in the festivities.
Allowing animals on the bridge was stopped nearly a decade ago because the city received so many complaints about people not cleaning up after their dogs or allowing their dogs to jump on other people, Mayor Ron Littlefield said. As long as residents and their dogs act responsibly, the dogs will be allowed on the bridge, he said.
"This restores family friendliness to the Walnut Street Bridge," Littlefield said. "Not just for the two-legged members but to the four-legged members, also."
Dogs attending the event got free treats and an opportunity to cool off in two plastic swimming pools.
Reopening the bridge to dogs is possible because of DOGood Chattanooga, a citizens group that Mrs. Roach coordinates. It includes about 700 people who say they are willing to clean up after their dogs and are encouraging other owners to do the same. Group members identify themselves by putting lime green bandanas on their dogs when they walk in the city and play with their dogs in an off-leash park.
In addition to cleaning up after their own dog, they commit to carrying extra animal waste bags and giving them to other animal owners who need them.
"DOGood Chattanooga is a friendly and nonconfrontational way to change attitudes about dog waste in the downtown and throughout the city. Our goal is to encourage everyone to do their part and pick up after their dog," according to the DOGood brochure.
The group also wants to sign up more volunteers.
Larry Zehnder, the city's parks and recreation director, said allowing dogs to walk the bridge is an experiment and he'll be watching to see the results.
"By having a lot of citizens involved to help with enforcement, that's certainly going to help all the way around," Mr. Zehnder said.