GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT
The Takoma Park dog park plan has been simplified. Instead of two fenced-off areas, as proposed last December, there is just one. Also, the park area is smaller.
Added to the plan presented at the city council March 9 meeting, however, is a water line and fountain. This adds $35,550 to the park’s estimated cost. Total estimated cost is $190,000 – 200,000.
Acting city manager Suzanne Ludlow said the cost estimate may change, and so may the city’s revenue projections. “We may have different information later” as the spring budget season advances, she said, but “at this point, I think this is something that can be accommodated. Presumably, she means the city has $200,000 without raising taxes.
The previous plan featured two fenced-off areas (one for “low activity,” the other for “high activity”), a bridge between them with an observation platform and a road with gates suitable for maintenance trucks. The site is Heffner Park adjacent to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) parking lot on Darwin Avenue.
Councilmember Seth Grimes was skeptical about the need for a water fountain. There is, he said, a county park water fountain about 250 feet from the dog park site. That fountain is turned off for the winter, he noted. And it looks like it has a broken pipe, he mentioned meaningfully.
He asked city staff to see if the county would install (and pay for) another fountain on their property next to the dog park.
The “fountains” they discussed are not the monumental sort, alas. They mean a “bubbler” drinking fountain. Which is a shame. Your Gilbert was going to suggest a fountain topped with a statue of a dog peeing on a tax-payer’s leg.
Your Gilbert isn’t the only grouch in town. Ward 1 resident Robert Engelman, bracing himself against the dog-park tidal wave, grumped at the council at the March 9th’s public comment session.
“It is inappropriate for the city to use public funds for a dog park,” he said. He called it a private benefit for a select group of people who own dogs. He held nothing against dogs or dog owners, he said, but dog ownership “is a choice, it is not a necessity.”
He suggested that dog owners raise the money amongst themselves, much as citizens recently raised $115,000 to help the city purchase the McLaughlin property, a wooded lot the neighborhood wished to preserve as green space.
Outside the municipal building the sounds of whining, whimpering and howling filled the air.
Dog Park activist Joe Edgell trotted to the podium to do damage control. He licked everyone’s face and reminded the council of the dog park’s multiplicate community support. 100,000 signatures on the online petition, he said, and each time someone signs – “BING” – an email goes to the mayor! Mayor Bruce Williams groaned in acknowledgment.
Takoma Dogs strategy all along has been to act as though they’ve won since before they showed up. Instead of asking “please build a dog park,” it’s been “why haven’t you built the dog park, yet?” Edgell continued this successful tactic March 8, reminding the council that Takoma Dogs want the park open this summer, and the former city manager said it was possible, so what’s the holdup?
He pointed out that the plans were scaled back from the previous version. The activists are well aware that the city lost a $53,000 state grant that was supposed to subsidize park expenses. Actually it was swiped by the county. Read about that here. Also gone is an expected state $30,000 grant for the following year. The state has a huge deficit and a new conservative governor.
Edgell proposed another frugality. The drinking water fountain, he said, could be replaced with a more utilitarian and cheaper farm version. The advantage of the farm version is that it works in the winter. The park drinking fountain style has to be shut off in the colder months.
As for dog owners assuming the park’s cost, he cited thousands of dollars-worth of volunteer labor, from clearing the park land, and to designing the park. Architect Eric Saul donated at least $10,000 worth of landscape design work – including a number of revisions.
So far about $20,000 has been spent on the park. $70,000 was budgeted for this fiscal year.
Yearly maintenance costs were estimated last June to be 10,000 to $25,000, depending on what kind of fence (more for wrought iron, less for chain-link), and other amenities are installed.
On the acting city manager’s conditional assurance that the $190,000 – $200,000 construction cost “can be accommodated,” the council voted to proceed to the next step.
The next step is a meeting with the Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission to discuss permitting requirements (and costs). The other next step is to write up a request for proposals (RFP), i.e. bids from construction firms, and a contract. The council must authorize the RFP and contract.
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