Story by Cary Estes — Livability Magazine
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Maury County is a place where it is easy to get outside and run around and play. Maybe even roll in the grass or fetch a stick.
Oh, and it is also a great outdoor recreation area for humans, too.
Maury County residents and their canine companions alike have numerous options these days when it comes to staying active. For people, the area is sprinkled with hiking and biking trails throughout the county, water activities along the Duck River, and several facilities and fields where sports of all kinds can be played. Then for our four-legged friends, the area is turning into a dog haven, as parks across the county are being built and expanded.
“Outdoor recreation is the most prominent amenity that we hear about from our residents,” says Al Ray, Maury County Parks and Recreation director. “There’s a huge demand for it that just keeps growing as we’ve grown.”
Finding a place for dogs to exercise can be a bit more difficult, especially within cities, but Maury County is addressing that issue through the creation of an expansive new dog park in Columbia. It will join existing dog parks in Spring Hill and in Mt. Pleasant, which opened a dog park in 2019.
“Dog parks are not built for dogs. They’re built for people who have dogs,” says Sonja Rine, recreation manager for the Spring Hill Parks and Recreation Department and president of Pet Pals of Maury County. “A dog does not care where he runs and digs, but responsible pet owners should care.”
Spring Hill’s 10-year-old Bark Park recently underwent a $30,000 renovation that doubled the size of the facility. New features include a hydration station, separate areas designated for small and large dogs, park benches and fresh sod.
“One thing that people look for in a community is how pets are treated and whether they are considered important,” Rine says. “By putting aside property for these nice dog parks, it says to people that we care about our pets here.”
Columbia’s new dog park is being built on land within Maury County Park, but it will be operated by the city of Columbia.
“It’s an example of how our local governments are working together to form partnerships that benefit our residents,” says Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder. “Not only will it be a place for dogs to get some exercise, but it will provide an opportunity to bring people together, because we’re all united when it comes to the love and support of our pets.”
The county nearly doubled the amount of its official park space, opening the 474-acre Yanahli Park in 2019. The park features a 1.5-mile loop for running, hiking, and biking. More trails will be added in the next phase of development, along with an archery range, camping areas and new kayak/canoe access points along the Duck River.
Other parks in the county include Chickasaw Trace Park, which has 8 miles of trails for mountain biking, Jerry Erwin Park, Woodland Park, Cheeks Bend Bluff and Williams Spring Park. In addition, there are six natural areas of public land within the 12,800-acre Yanahli Wildlife Management Area. These include Cheeks Bend, which has a nearly 2-mile hiking trail that leads to bluffs overlooking the Duck River, and Stillhouse Hollow Falls, highlighted by its namesake 75-foot waterfall.
But you don’t have to venture into the wilderness to enjoy the outdoors. Recreation facilities throughout the county provide playing areas for soccer, including seven new fields at the Ridley Sports Complex, baseball, softball, football, tennis, and disc golf.
One of the more picturesque places to exercise is at Riverwalk Park in Columbia. In addition to the 2.5-mile trail that runs along the Duck River, the city recently created an outdoor gym in the park, where residents can break a sweat using equipment like an elliptical cross trainer and a rowing machine.
“We want a healthier community, so we’re being proactive and providing additional things that don’t just come naturally to a park,” Molder says.
“We’re making a lot of strides in promoting healthy lifestyles, and the parks are a big part of that process.”