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Wrap Up of Tuesday-Night Meeting on 17th Street Dog Park

by Borderstan.com October 14, 2009 at 2:45 pm 12 Comments

Note: Neighbor Julie from Borderstan attended last night’s meeting on the 17th Street dog park at the DC Jewish Community Center. Following is Julie’s report.

Overview

First and foremost, NOTHING WAS RESOLVED regarding issues on the 17th Street dog park. No changes (from the government point of view) are likely to flow from this meeting. Commissioner Meehan, however, seemed eager to get some sort of resolution passed at tonight’s ANC meeting. I don’t believe there was enough of a consensus to make that possible.

Attendees numbered about 35. Emotions were running fairly high. While discussion could be heated, it remained civil. Many issues were brought up for discussion–though due to time limitations and the many points of view–the discussion focused primarily on operating hours of the park and the number of dogs allowed in the park at any one time. It was suggested that a follow-up meeting take place in 1 to 2 months to further discuss the issues and their suggested resolutions.

Commissioner Bob Meehan (ANC2/Dupont), Sara Moulton (DPR), Iris Molotsky (Friends of S and T Parks), and JJ (I don’t know her last name) from Circle Dogs comprised the panel.

Meehan indicated that the initial agreement between the parties discussing the creation of the park was that if the neighborhood decided that their quality of life was too negatively impacted by the dog park the park would REVERT TO A CHILDREN’S PARK–NO DOGS ALLOWED.

Highlights on Specific Issues

  • Enforcement of Rules. Who is responsible? The focus should be on the development of a “culture of responsibility” by and between owners using the park. Dog park rules were distributed and are available online (PDF).  Dog Exercise Area Tag Applications and Dog License Applications are also available online. If there is an issue on the grounds of the park (for example, a dog owner refusing to control his aggressive dog) one should notify the DC Urban Park Rangers via either 311 or 202-441-2605.
  • Infrastructure. The Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) representative indicated that any issues with the physical infrastructure of the park (the fence, turf, gates, lighting, etc.) be brought to the attention of DPR directly.
  • Hours of Operation. It was suggested that the operating hours remain as they are until it can be shown that a culture of responsibility has developed within the dog park-user community to keep barking at a minimum, therefore proving to the immediate neighbors that extended hours won’t negatively affect their quality of life. DC regulations say the park can be open “not later than 10 p.m.”
  • Opening and Closing. Currently it is Urban Park Rangers and an individual from Circle Dogs who open and close the dog park. It was suggested that Circle Dogs create a schedule of responsibility similar to the one Shaw Dogs has so that there can be consistency.
  • Children in the Park. No real discussion took place due to time limitations.
  • Capacity. The number of dogs allowed in the park at any one time. Current DC regulations say that there must be 450 square feet of park per dog. The park is 5500 square feet. That works out to 12.2 dogs. It was suggested that when the park is “at capacity” users limit their time in the park to no more than 20 minutes to allow others to have access. Think of the treadmill rule at the gym and you have the idea.
  • Toys. It was suggested that dog toys not be allowed on the park since guarding issues pose a risk. Someone suggested that there might be a distinction between toys and tennis balls.
  • Unaltered (un-neutered) Dogs. It was suggested that unaltered dogs (male and female) not be allowed in the park.  Counter-arguments were made that bad behavior like humping and aggression are, like barking, and owner control issue.

– Julie of Borderstan

Comments (12)

  1. The meeting was pretty heated. I hope Circle Dogs increases efforts to grow membership and share information at the park. I’m sure there are dog owners who would be happy to help, if they knew more about what was going on. I know I’ll do more to get involved after last night’s meeting.

  2. Was there any indication that the members of the panel, particularly Commissioner Meehan, looked into the best practices of other communities with dog parks? If so, are any of these best practices being employed here in DC?

    These issues can’t be new, and they can’t be geo-specific. Certainly others cities can give us guidance. I’ll explore and report back.

  3. In a matter of minutes, I have found six (6) different links relating to dog park rules and etiquette. Perhaps these could be of service to the brain trust in charge of creating dog park rules.

    Step one, introduce someone on Commissioner Meehan’s staff to Google. As I suspected, these issues have been dealt with before. Step two, have Meehan’s staffer pick up the phone and call Chicago, LA, San Diego, Seattle etc., and find out how these rules are enforced.

    Then, have them explore the following links:

    http://www.cityofseattle.net/parks/publications/policy/OLARules.pdf

    http://www.cityofseattle.net/parks/publications/OLArules.htm

    http://chicago.about.com/od/dogsandcats/a/ChicagoDogParks.htm

    http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/resources/dog_friendly_areas/

    http://www.apdt.com/po/park/etiquette.aspx

    http://www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/general-info/dogs.shtml

  4. 5 links, after a quick Google search, reveals that all the questions raised have been answered by other communities.

    Seattle, San Diego, LA, etc. have all solved these problems. Let’s get these best practices put before the eyes of someone on Meehan’s staff!

    http://www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/general-info/dogs.shtml

    http://www.cityofseattle.net/parks/publications/OLArules.htm

    http://chicago.about.com/od/dogsandcats/a/ChicagoDogParks.htm

    http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/resources/dog_friendly_areas/

    http://www.apdt.com/po/park/etiquette.aspx

  5. Avi – Thank you for the links. Note that Commissioner Meehan has no staff and is not paid. ANC commissioners are essentially elected volunteers.

    Also, here is the link to Fairfax County’s dog parks:
    http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/offleash.htm
    And here are the rules for Fairfax County dog parks:
    http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/parkrules/dogpark.htm

  6. Thanks for the constructive comments and the great links. I guess this shows that community members care about the park and are willing to spend their time.

    CircleDogs is just getting its communication plans together and collecting members. The official site is not up yet, but you can get on the notification list via Facebook.

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Circle-Dogs-DC/125091675495?ref=ts

  7. Many neighbors would love to get involved in the park, but there is no enforcement mechanism based out of Circle Dogs. The people that make up the ‘board’ (appointed by themselves, not by any real transparent method) don’t seem to really KNOW what goes on at the park. If they would have a schedule where someone from Circle Dogs were at the park during the peak time (5:30-6:30) to introduce themselves, and begin to point out violations and problems, people might feel more comfortable taking on the ‘community monitoring’ Circle Dogs is so hopeful will magically come to be.

    Circle Dogs has had at least 2 months to plan the basics. There has been a facebook page for a good while, so it would seem “just beginning” is more like “not sure where to go”.

    Hopefully they’ll realize that their absence from the park will mean more problems in the future. Go to the park, introduce yourselves, tell us why you’re on the board and what you need help with. Otherwise, we’ll just continue to shrug and problems will continue to go unaddressed.

  8. I am a new volunteer board member – just last week – and am open to the last commenter and anyone’s suggestions. I am at the park often – maybe not when this commenter is – but I am there and live very close (17th and Riggs) and have lived in this neighborhood for 16 years.

    As it is a diverse city we all have different jobs and different hours that we use the park. I hope that our schedules intersect sometime soon so I can introduce myself.

  9. Concerned Dog Parent

    I am concerned about the presumption that the taxpaying dog owners who use the park should be held responsible for the maintenance of this park. Are parents of children responsible for the maintenance of children’s parks in this city?

    We pay a lot of taxes here in the District – Income, Sales, Property, etc. I’ve heard it said that something like $1 out of every $3 tax dollars collected in DC goes to funding school expenses alone. I’m glad we take the welfare of our city’s families’ children so seriously. But in a city with little in the way of open spaces for our 4 legged ‘children’ to run around in (and none of them legal for ‘off leash’ running), I think it’s only fair that we spend some of those many tax dollars we ALL pay to provide for safe, clean, and WELL MAINTAINED dog parks for our city’s family’s dogs.

    I’m sure that in the entire scheme of things, the costs to build and maintain an adequate number of dog parks throughout the city to serve all our dog owning families wouldn’t be close to $1 in $1,000,000 of the many taxes collected. It would be a big return on a small investment … and fair to all families … including those with the 4-legged ‘children’!

  10. The agreement is that organizations maintain and regulate the dog parks in the city. That’s how it goes, and the people who use the park the most should be able to handle the pretty minimal responsibilities.

    The board was SUPPOSED to be made up of people who were part of the initial park application and Circle Dogs. Years later, it is made up of one such person and other volunteers who were never brought in front of the community to say why they want to be on the board, what they bring to it, and as a group, what their plans are. Again, over 2 months have gone by at least since the Facebook site has been up so there must have been some organization in place then.

    Just an opinion, but if there are 4 or 5 members of the Board, then at least a couple of times a week, someone should be able to be there. If you have volunteered for such a board, then you assume the responsibilities

  11. Is this really that big of a concern?? It is a DOG PARK!!!!! With all the crime in our neighborhood, this is what the focus is on??? No wonder nothing is ever going to change.

    Can’t wait until I get mugged this Friday night–just hope I get punched rather than shot or knifed. I’m just more concerned that there may be a un-neutered male dog at the park. Heaven forbid!!!!!!!!!

  12. To “concerned dog parent who said: “I am concerned about the presumption that the taxpaying dog owners who use the park should be held responsible for the maintenance of this park. Are parents of children responsible for the maintenance of children’s parks in this city?”

    WTF. I don’t have a dog or a child, but your attitude is nuts. I am subscribed as is everyone in the states to a social contact that makes me responsible for other citizens especially children, and there is NO such social contract when it comes to your pet, or livestock.

    In case you are completely confused, those children are full fledged citizens of the coutnry, and full fledged citizens of the District of Columbia — YOUR DOG ISN’T.

    As far as your math on taxes and schools it is bogus as any check of the budget will tell you, and again it is an accepted and explicit responsibility of citizens to payu for schools in the US — there is no such responsibility to pay for the upkeep of other peoples dogs.

    Didn’t you got to school? that is why you pay taxes for school, because 99% of the people in the country — like all dog owners — had their school paid for by other peoples’ taxes. Also your dog will never grow up and pay taxes and those kids will.

    The fact is the dog groups advocating were AstroTurfed — and everyone knows it. The lied about the numbers of members.

    They promised to enforce the rules and now that they won’t and can’t they simply propose to relax the rules they said they would enforce when lobbying for gaining exclusive use of the existing park.

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