Dude, where’s my dog park?

Takoma Dogs activist Joe Edgell addresses the city council June 15, 2015.

BY NANA ADWOA ANTWI-BOASIAKO

Cyrus likes playing but doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to do so freely. He is active, brown in complexion with black strips at the tip of his hairs. His brown eyes will make you fall in love with him and that is how he got into the Edgell household.

He looks like an average dog. Perhaps he is one, but at home he is family.

His owner Joe Edgell says he is a mystery mutt. “He is a mutt. He is a mix of different things. We are not sure what he is made of,” said Edgell.

This year marks Cyrus’s six-years of living in Takoma Park after being rescued by D.C. area Lucky Dogs Animal Rescue somewhere in the Carolinas.

Cyrus is one of the 4,000 dogs living in Takoma Park, according to takomadogs.org.

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Takoma Dogs in the 2013 Independence Day Parade.

His owner Edgell, a Takoma Park resident for over a decade, got together with some of his neighbors back in 2013 and asked the city for a dog park.

All dogs in the city have to be on leash when not in a fenced area; Cyrus house is not fenced and Edgell wanted his dog to receive the benefits of living an active life.

“There is quite a bit of evidence that dogs are better socialized, they are behaved and have less tendency to bite both people and dogs,” when they interact with other dogs and people said Edgell.

Dog parks can contribute to the reduction of surface water pollution when there are no waste left on side-walks, he claims.

The small town with its rich history in advocacy got a lot of support for the dog park.

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Then city manager Brian Kenner (left) talks to dog-park activist Joe Edgell (center) and coach/activist/author Howard Kohn, November, 2013.

Some residents formed the Takoma dog organization, an advocacy group whose job is to keep neighbors informed on the plans for the dog park. Online and paper petitions got1,100 signatures.

When the first stages of building a dog park started, finding a place to build the park, how much it will cost and who will pay for it became an issue.

The city approved a space for the park, Heffner Park at the end of Darwin Avenue.

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A map prepared by city staff for a council discussion about dog park locations, May 2014.

Other options for the park were on Montgomery County land. Getting county permission to use those lands was process people didn’t want to deal with.

With the space chosen the next steps were funding and construction.


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Local architect and Takoma Park resident Eric Saul got involved. Saul, who has a pug named Dude, thought this was the perfect time for him to get involved in his community.

So he volunteered his time to design sketches for the park. His goal was “to create a big dog park and a small dog park,” on the same field, said Saul. One area would be dedicated to highly active dogs and the other to less active dogs.

There were several sketches for the park but the city needed one which would fit in their estimated budget. The original design by Saul has been simplified because of space, there will be only one area for all dogs.

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Original design for “two-area” dog park.

The uneven land is currently filled with trees and a lot of fill will be needed for the land to be flat.

During service day in 2014, about 100 residents went to the site of the park and helped clear the park for construction. About the same number of residents also showed up in 2015 to clear the land again.

In the summer of 2014, then city manager Brian Kenner suggested park construction would begin that fiscal year.

“They said the park will be done by the end of the 2015 fiscal year,” Edgell reminded city officials at the June 15 council meeting during the citizen comment period.

The 2015 fiscal year ended on June 30, and there is still no construction going on at the site of the park.

In Kenner’s proposal, $50,000 was set aside for the dog park. The city approved an additional $20,000 for the park later on.

The city also applied for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Community Parks and Playgrounds Grant in 2014 but the dog park was not selected for funding.

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More recent dog park plan.

The park was expected to be funded one-fourth by the city and three-fourths by the state. Then the fiscal year started and residents haven’t seen any construction for the park.

Daryl Braithwaite, Public Works Director of Takoma Park says the reason the park has taken so long is because of the process it takes to get the park going.

“We need both authority from neighbors [and] from county and state,” Braithwaite said. Processing applications takes a long time, as well, she said.

One of the problems near the park site is erosion from the school nearby. There have already been discussions between Takoma Middle School authorities and the city on how to collaborate to solve the problem.

Parking planning permits need to go out. Also the money that was originally supposed to come from the state didn’t arrive during the fiscal year.

“Nothing has been authorized,” Braithwaite said. Everything now depends on permissions received from the state and from {s}neighbors around the park.

At the June 15 city council meeting new city manager Suzanne Ludlow said she “hope[s] it is done by the end of the summer.”

Currently the city estimates that the park will cost almost $200,000 in construction.

For now dogs like Cyrus and Dude will have to deal with no parks for them to play in unleashed.

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Nana Adwoa Antwi-Boasiako, a journalist who loves talking to people and telling their stories., has a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism from University of North Texas, currently pursing a masters in journalism at Georgetown University.

 

1 Comment on "Dude, where’s my dog park?"

  1. Tom Gagliardo | July 3, 2015 at 6:08 pm |

    $200,000! I’m fostering a dog, and walk him daily in Heffner Park. And it costs $200k for a fenced in area where dogs can run free? Incroiable. Although that’s not the first French word that came to mind.

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