Shaw Exercises Its Dog Park Rights

By Timothy Wilson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dog owners in the Shaw neighborhood can drop their leashes and set their pets free in the District's first legal dog park.

The 15,000-square-foot enclosed area on 11th Street NW between Q and R streets opened this month and has separate enclosures for large and small dogs.

"It's been a long time coming," said Clark E. Ray, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

The D.C. Council passed legislation to create dog parks in October 2005. Last December, final rules were issued that allowed for the creation of public dog parks in the District.

At the Shaw park, dogs can sprint freely atop a pea gravel and stone dust surface; owners have access to three waste disposal stations equipped with plastic bags for fast cleanup. The park will be open until June 2010, when construction of a school is scheduled to begin.

Walter Mendoza said he has noticed a difference in his year-old Labrador retriever, Bayer, after visits to the park. "He's so much more laid back at home," Mendoza said. "You can squeeze in 20 minutes of good exercise. This is awesome."

Public dog parks, which are free to use, are a partnership between the Department of Parks and Recreation and a sponsoring community group that must submit an application with the department to create the park.

The department pays for design and construction of a basic dog park. The sponsoring group is responsible for daily maintenance and any amenities that are added. The community group responsible for the Shaw Dog Park is the MidCity Beautification and Education Association.

Applications must contain the completed dog park form, reasons for creating a dog park in the neighborhood and letters of support from individuals, organizations and Advisory Neighborhood Commissions in the surrounding area of the proposed park. The minimum size for a dog park is 5,000 square feet.

Ray said applications have been submitted by groups throughout the city except for wards 7 and 8.

"I'm sure there are dog owners east of the [Anacostia] River, but it doesn't seem to be a big priority right now," he said.

Shana Fulton said a dog park would be a beneficial resource for dog owners in Ward 5. Her community group, the Michigan Avenue Triangle Dog Group, proposed a park on a triangular lot at 18th Street and Michigan Avenue NE but encountered stiff opposition from the two advisory neighborhood commissioners whose districts share 18th Street as a boundary.

"It's been a long process," said Fulton, the owner of a 3-year-old Rottweiler named Cleo. "We were the first application submitted that didn't have ANC support."

In August, the department returned her group's application because it did not have a letter of support from advisory neighborhood commissioners.

Fulton said that the commissioners have withheld support for the dog park but that she remained optimistic because of the support of council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5).

"He's been very helpful," she said. "He's working with us on an alternate site."

Three dog park projects have been approved by the department. Ray said construction of the city's first permanent dog park could begin next month at a park near Dupont Circle in Northwest, to be called the S Street Dog Park. By early next year, projects at Kingsman Field in Northeast and Newark Street NW will begin the design phase.

Dogs must have a valid D.C. license and a dog park registration tag to enter a park. The Department of Parks and Recreation will host an open house at the Shaw dog park at 1 p.m. Saturday, featuring dog registration, licensing and free vaccinations.

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