BY NAOMI EIDE
The Dude will have his park.
Eric Saul’s pug, The Dude, may soon have a place to socialize with other dogs – off-leash – because of Takoma Dog’s tireless efforts to build a dog park in Takoma Park.
Saul, founder of Saul Architects, began working with Takoma Dogs after responding to an email looking for an architect to help design the local dog park.
Joe Edgell, owner of “mystery mutt” Cyrus, created Takoma Dogs, enlisting local dog owners to support the creation of a city dog park. Edgell estimates there are 4,250 dogs in Takoma Park.
The city has budgeted $200,000 for the park, and the city will soon request proposals from contractors to build the site. Once they have estimates back from contractors, they will have a better idea of the real costs, said Daryl Braithwaite, Public Works Department director. The department maintains city-owned property such as parks and buildings and oversees construction and other improvements.
Takoma Dogs worked closely with the city to revise their original site concept plan and to create an affordable budget for the project, said Braithwaite.
“They’re creating a whole new park from scratch for less than the Jackson/Boyd Park cost to renovate,” said Edgell. “What Takoma Park is getting for $200,000 is actually pretty good.”
Originally the city planned to use money from Program Open Space, a Maryland Department of Natural Resources program for the purchase and protection of open space, but the county no longer has money available, Braithwaite said.
Program Open Space used to fund most of Takoma Park playgrounds, construction and renovations, Braithwaite said.
Acting city manager Suzanne Ludlow said that every city has money set aside for major projects. Usually, Ludlow said, one-time city budget expenditures come from grants or extra money from the state. Because most of the construction will happen after July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, money for the dog park will be built into next year’s budget.
Ludlow said the city is still pursuing grant money for the park, preferring not to use taxpayer revenue. The $200,000 is “not something to sneeze at, it’s a good size project,” Ludlow said. “But it is something that I think we can manage…it’s similar to kinds of projects we try to do every year,” for the city.
“Although $200,000 for constructing a dog park sounds like a lot, most building projects cost quite a bit more,” Ludlow said. ”Even most major street projects cost a lot more than that.”
The city hopes to start construction this fiscal year, which ends June 30, Braithwaite said. “People wanted this done yesterday, so there’s just a lot of interest in getting it done sooner rather than later.”
“I believe in that old cliché to not count one’s chickens before they hatch. I don’t see a dog park constructed yet,” Edgell said. “I’ll be pleased when there’s a dog park open in Takoma Park for the entire community to use. Right now I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re moving in the right direction.”