Thursday, May 1, 2014

Dog Park status

A constituent asked me about Takoma Park dog park status.

The city council discussed dog-park funding as part of the fiscal year 2015 (FY15) budget discussion at the Monday, April 28 council meeting. We agreed to allocate $70,000 in FY15 to pay for dog park planning, design, construction of basic elements. The council is scheduled to vote on the budget in two "readings," on May 12 and 19. Public comment is invited.

The council also voted to authorize the city manager to start the hiring process now for a Public Works construction manager. That's a new position for FY15. It would replace an administrative assistant. The fiscal year starts July 1, and if we hadn't authorized an early start on the hiring process, it wouldn't have started until July 1, so we're potentially gaining a couple of months.

There is no dog-park design or description beyond the requirement that there'd be a fence with a gate on suitably prepared ground. The site has not been chosen yet. (There's still some advocacy for developing more than one dog park right off, but I don't think we'll go in that direction.)

We have a leading candidate site, which is city property called Heffner Park, adjacent to Takoma Piney Branch Local Park. The Heffner Park site -- an area that's currently unused, not the Heffner Park community center location -- would be reached from the end of the parking lot at the end of Darwin Avenue. A second candidate is the space above Ed Wilhelm field. The advantage of that site, which is owned by Montgomery County Parks, is that people could use the community center parking lot, which would keep traffic off Darwin Ave and the streets that lead to it.

The City Manager has proposed a Dog Park Timeline, shown on the 6th slide in one of his budget-presentation decks.

It calls for June 2014 community meetings with stakeholders to discuss the location of the park and October 2014 community meetings with stakeholders to discuss designs. Outside of that timeline, I've set up a May 18 meeting with Hodges Heights residents to get their reactions to a couple of candidate sites close to their neighborhood. I've heard concerns from a number of people about off-leash dogs and traffic impact. I've heard from a couple of people who object to this city spending, and while I respect that opinion, I believe this expenditure is justified and affordable. The strong, patient, persistent Takoma Dogs advocacy has moved us along.

The next public milestone, other than the budget votes, is a city-council discussion of locations and next steps that is slated for May 19.

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