Montgomery to require permits for dog parks

Barrett, a German shepherd, takes a breather at Ridge Road Recreational Park in Germantown. Seated behind Barrett are dog owners Cassandra Aebersold and Katrina Provost, with Molly.
Barrett, a German shepherd, takes a breather at Ridge Road Recreational Park in Germantown. Seated behind Barrett are dog owners Cassandra Aebersold and Katrina Provost, with Molly. (Brian Lewis/the Gazette)

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By Margie Hyslop
The Gazette
Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dog park users in Montgomery County say they need a place where their pets can romp off-leash, but the humans aren't happy about a $40 or more fee for an amenity that has been free.

"Why not charge people who bring children? They make a mess and need the same kind of facilities," said Heidi Epstein of Bethesda, who takes her Labrador retriever, Coco, to Cabin John Regional Park.

Despite her opinion, Epstein said she intends to buy a permit and continue to use the dog park -- one of five in the county -- where, beginning Sunday, dogs will need a permit and a collar tag for access. The other dog parks are in Black Hill Regional Park in Boyds, Olney Manor Recreational Park, Ridge Road Recreational Park in Germantown and Wheaton Regional Park. The parks are operated by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

Sally Young said she is unsure whether she and her Catahoula leopard dog, Leena, will return to the Cabin John park. As a Rockville resident, she can use the dog park at King Farm, which is operated by the city of Rockville and is free and open to city residents only. Gaithersburg has a dog exercise area in Green Park that is free for city residents and $60 per year for nonresidents.

"I have to weigh my options," Young said. "It just seems so high a price for a park."

Although other counties in the region charge fees for dog park use, neighboring Prince George's County does not. Prince George's parks department shares some administrative services with Montgomery under the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

Revenue from the fees will not be earmarked, said parks spokeswoman Kelli Holsendolph, but it will stay in the parks department.

Some dog park users said the facilities are worth the price.

"Forty dollars seems cheap for having the chance to let your dog off the leash for a little while. It's much better than going anywhere else," said Joanne Hewitt of Wheaton, who was at the Cabin John park with her dog, Jet.

That park cost $158,000 to build, Holsendolph said. She did not know how much was spent for Black Hill, Ridge Road and Wheaton.

Olney Manor dog park was paid for with state transportation funds to mitigate the impact of land lost to building the Intercounty Connector. That park cost $135,000, said Ray Feldmann, spokesman for the ICC project.

An estimate of the maintenance costs for the dog parks, which are cared for as part of the larger parks in which they are located, was not available, Holsendolph said.


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