Dog walk showcases new park for public

Park hosts "Dog Tails on Voelcker Trails" event – The city of San Antonio's Parks and Recreation Department has been working steadily since last year to establish the newly-purchased Phil Hardberger Park site, which consists of land from the former Max and Minnie Voelcker dairy farm. Many of the trees on the 311-acre site date back to the days of the Alamo.

Last Saturday, Phil Hardberger Park was opened to the public for the "Dog Tails on Voelcker Trails" event. Citizens were encouraged to bring their pets for free microchipping, a service the city of San Antonio's Animal Care Services is now requiring for all its new pet adoptions.

Animals who have received the service have a microchip under their back fur that identify the animal and present other data on the animal when scanned. The process helps to reunite lost animals with their owners faster.

Krystal Strong, special projects manager for the parks and recreation department, said she had hoped the event's convenience would draw a crowd.

"It is a service offered free today, however, it's convenient for folks to come out to this event as opposed to going to animal care services," she said. "This is simply a convenient service for pet owners. We had had multiple open houses at Voelcker Park, but this is the first dog walk event we're having. We hope it will be really successful."

The park opened at 8:30 a.m., with the organized dog walk beginning at 9:00 a.m.

"The walk itself is about 1.89 miles and so it's a pretty easy walk," said Strong. "It's a nice winding, meandering trail within the park. It takes about 30 to 45 minutes to walk."

The park remained open until noon for residents to walk their dogs and take advantage of the free microchipping from Animal Care Services.

At 10:30 a.m., ACS had already microchipped 75 dogs. This process is part of the city's No Kill by 2012 initiative. ACS director Jeff Hale said the microchipping has already gone a long way toward reaching that goal.

"The ordinance that requires micro-chipping went into effect Jan. 1," he said. "We feel this is an excellent way to help get us to a no-kill status by 2012."

In addition to the microchipping, ACS offered rabies vaccinations or a full course of regular shots for a flat fee on Saturday. Since the event was focused on dogs, they didn't advertise for cats but said at the event that cats were welcome to come for microchipping and shots.

ACS also brought and showcased several dogs available for adoption.

According to Strong, Phil Hardberger Park should be completely open to the public by 2009.

"The master plan has not been approved, but we are looking to go to City Council in May for approval, and after that we will begin looking at Phase One with construction starting as early as this summer," she said. "That being complete, we could possibly open at the end of this year or early next year."