Friday, December 13, 2013 2:47 AM
Published on: Thursday, July 18, 2013
By Shannon McHale
TAKOMA PARK - Things are getting a little “ruff” as local residents young and old petition the City Council on behalf of man’s best friend.
Community group TakomaDogs and its allies filled the auditorium at the City Council meeting on Monday night. After group members spoke in support of a fenced dog park in Takoma Park during the meeting’s public comment period, city resident Joe Edgell presented on behalf of TakomaDogs in front of the council.
TakomaDogs’ presentation included the results of its informal petition: over 1,100 signatures, 577 of which came from Takoma Park residents, supporting a local dog park.
TakomaDogs proposal for three neighborhood dog parks, one of which would be built immediately, includes four possible city locations where the parks could be built. According to Edgell, the group’s “preferred location” is the terrace area of the Takoma-Piney Branch/Ed Wilhelm Park. This location is owned by the county, and would require county consent before any action could be taken.
Mayor Bruce Williams said it would be “fair to say the Council is interested in establishing a dog park,” but had difficulty finding a site when the council rejected an earlier dog park proposal in FY 2009-2010. Montgomery County requires dog parks to be a minimum of 10,000 square feet.
At about 24,000 square feet, the Ed Wilhelm terrace location is the smallest of the suggested locations. The parking lot of that same park stands at about 30,800 square feet, the “Prince George’s Triangle” at about 33,000 square feet, and a space at Silgo Creek Parkway and Maple Avenue at about 30,000 square feet.
“I think this is all doable,” said Councilmember Seth Grimes, noting that size and cost didn’t seem to be an issue. “But there needs to be more process to it than just buying a bunch of fence and sticking it up,” he said.
Councilmember Fred Schultz agreed. “The parks that don’t work are the ones that are too small for the amount of use they get,” he said, expressing concerns about park supervision and maintenance costs. TakomaDogs’ proposal includes a public/private partnership between the group and the city. If the city agrees, TakomaDogs will incorporate and take on full responsibility for the maintenance of the park in exchange for having authority over it.
There are five existing dog parks in Montgomery County, and Montgomery Parks recently recommended a new park in downtown Silver Spring. Takoma Park residents say they enjoy those parks, but are missing out on neighborhood socialization when they drive to other communities.
Several residents commented on the social aspect of dog parks for humans, with one noting that “pretty much everyone I knew was because I had a dog.” A veterinarian in the audience added that “dogs who go to dog parks are better socialized, too.”
A similar proposal reached the city in 2009-2010, but the city rejected it. In his presentation, Edgell said this was due to the high cost of insuring the dog park, and promised that this year’s proposal would be much more affordable.
TakomaDogs estimates the cost of the parks to range from $12,379 to $33,480, depending on the cost of fencing. This includes fencing, benches, ground cover, water, and insurance – which killed the proposal last time the council saw it. “”’s proposal was for an unfenced park, and a fenced-off park would have much lower insurance rates. Edgell said that after the initial building costs, TakomaDogs would fund park maintenance through volunteer work and possible corporate advertisements in the park.
He added that building a dog park in Takoma Park would not only be affordable, but would bring in additional money from dog owners.
Edgell says that the lack of dog parks in Takoma Park causes owners to spend money in other cities when they’re visiting those cities’ parks. Based on calculations derived from national statistics, TakomaDogs estimated that dog owners spend $2,898,500 each year in Takoma Park.