“But here’s the thing … DPR essentially chose the location!”

Photo via Ward4Paws

UPDATE from DPR on Friday:

“Today DPR’s Director Keith Anderson spoke with the dog park applicant and we are moving forward to collaborate on a new location.”

“Dear PoPville,

I don’t know if you have heard, but the Northern Ward 4 Dog Park Group has been trying to get approval from DPR for a dog park at 3rd and Underwood, NW.

This group has done everything right. They received preliminary approval from DPR and DDOEE for the proposed site – after moving the site several times to appease the two agencies. The location was a compromise reached after receiving feedback from ANC 4B, picnickers (yes, picnickers!), neighbors, churches and Coolidge High School staff.

The group received ANC support, participated in community meetings, voluntarily notified the community, and submitted the most dog park petition signatures ever to DPR. The Dog Park Application Review Committee even voted in favor of the site 5 to 3. At every meeting for this proposed dog park, the support was overwhelmingly for the dog park.

But apparently the DPR Director has the final say and can stray from the official regulations by basing his decision on subjective criteria that no one ever knew existed.

And the result was a big fat “NO.” The letter (see takoma-dog-park-application_dpr-response_(PDF)) gives three reasons for his decision:

1. Its too-close proximity to nearby residences’ front porches;
2. Its failure to streamline with the existing use of the open space where adults and children play, walk, and rest; and
3. Its location between two heavily used athletic fields (I live there … they are rarely used).

But here’s the thing … DPR essentially chose the location! The group worked with DPR to find the right location! How is this possible? Does no one at DPR talk to each other?

This reflects extremely poorly on DPR, Mayor Bowser, and Councilman Todd. It gives me no confidence in our elected officials and the DC Government.

Maybe your readers have some suggestions on what this group can do to get this decision overturned?”

44 Comment

  • Geezers gonna geez, I guess

  • I think this falls under the heading of (from DPR director’s view), “If I do this, I will only get blowback from residents who will call the Mayor’s Office and Todd’s office. Therefore, I will not do this.”

    Sounds like you did your due diligence. But it’s always a lot easier to say no to something and maintain the status quo (no one will really get mad at you for that), vs. making a few dog owners a little bit happy and potentially pissing off a few neighbors.

  • Sounds like they do not want a dog park there. Not sure what else to say regarding the matter.

  • Neighbor here. There is a tremendous amount of open, unused space in this specific area – more than enough for a small dog park to serve what is obviously a substantial constituency (I call your attention to the fact that the proposed park received the most signatures of any dog park anywhere in the entire city). This rejection is not about the space, nor about serving the needs of the community. DPR sent the dog park applicants through myriad hoops, backed them into a literal corner, and then crapped out in the end. I wish I were surprised.

    • Honest question: you say that the rejection is not about the space, so what is it about? I recently moved nearby and I am not up to speed on any history, but I am definitely disappointed to hear that it isn’t going forward.

      • It’s about certain portions of the city (i.e. DC old timers) being generally anti-dog (i.e. anti-new DC people w/ money who are perceived to be the type to have dogs), and about the DC government being run/controlled by the old crowd.

  • Bummer, just moved to the area and this would be dope to have nearby! Fingers crossed someone intervenes, if that’s even possible.

  • PlayDC master plan has a dog park proposed closer to Missouri and Georgia—can you get DPR to move the one that was proposed there to your location or else get them to build that one that was proposed?


  • The kicker really is that this was the location that DPR had recommended after reviewing various other proposed locations. ! Then the committee tasked to review the location approved it 5-2.

    At the very least, DPR should take some leadership and find a new location in the area that is suitable rather than putting all the burden back onto the citizens who have spent 2 years putting together this proposal and getting all the necessary sign-offs along the way.

  • Another neighbor here.: Non-dog owner, pro dog park.
    While at the rec center recently with my kids, near the aquatic center, many neighbors were using the park with their dogs anyway. What could possibly be the harm of having a designated area? Less chance of me sitting in dog poo, at least!

  • This is really frustrating. So much thoughtful work and effort went into this plan, and then for DPR to unilaterally dismiss all of these residents is just demoralizing. There are so many fields at Takoma- I’m a parent and neighbor and am at the park on at least a weekly basis. The fields in question are, in fact, rarely used.

  • I’m a new homeowner in the area, and I frequently use the pool, tennis courts and fields at the Takoma Park Rec Center. When I heard about the potential for a dog park there as well, I enthusiastically supported it. In fact it was the first time that I got involved in a local political issue. Its a shame that despite all the local support, clear support from DC Administrative Agency staff and the ANC that DPR would reject this proposal. Its DC Government living up to its reputation.

    Councilman Todd, Mayor Bowser, its time that you personally get involved to make sure your constituents in Ward 4 are being treated fairly.

  • gmsdesigns

    IMHO this really is about the total lack of support for this initiative by both Councilman Todd and Mayor Bowser. We aren’t talking about a few dozen “puppy huggers” here. There were 600 + residents who signed the supporting petition to the DPR. That is an unprecedented number. This was a group of civic minded neighbors who played by all the rules and jumped through all the bureaucratic hoops only to have their application trashed for the most arbitrary of reasons. No my friends, this is about our councilman and Mayor fearing blow back from the anti-gentrification folks. The is some history behind this premise that I wrote about in a recent blog post. https://gmsdesignsnet.wordpress.com/2016/10/18/dog-parks-bike-lanesnot-in-my-neighborhood/

    • My personal opinion is that the denial is anti-gentrification measure to be honest and that they want the Takoma Rec Center remain as is.

      • There is a strong anti-gentrification sentiment in Brightwood. Many of my former neighbors were very vocal in their opposition to gentrification, and although I came to know and love them, it wasn’t always easy. I have a lot of respect for my neighbors, and understand where they are coming from; they moved into Brightwood at a time when they (or their parents) could not buy property elsewhere in the city because they were black. They see the rising costs of home ownership and are scared that their children and grandchildren, and working people in general, will not be able to live in their community. However, I think there are better ways to focus energy and ensure that property remains reachable to middle-income people in Brightwood/Takoma/Manor Park than blocking a dog park, or attempting to block development in general. Development in this area is needed, and it seems a little like cutting off your nose to spite your face. I wish they would focus their energies in a more positive manner.
        Also, as a side note, on my former block, the two houses that were sold in the last 4-5 years were sold off by the children of former residents at a major profit. Is it really the fault of these new homeowners that this occurred? Why are they vilified, but the sellers aren’t?

    • Has it yet become clear who is a part of the Friends of Takoma Recreation Center group that opposed the dog park? I followed this loosely on the area list serve, and they were pretty secretive about who makes up and how large the group is. Though they never came out and said it directly, their opposition seemed mostly based on anti-gentrification.

      • The dog park group maintains a listserve and there has been multiple threads on it about how the dog park group tried to reach out to the Friends of Takoma Recreation Center multiple times to try and work with them on identifying an appropriate site. My understanding is the only thing they got back was radio silence.

      • I had occasion to interact with the Friends group in connection with DPR’s plan for a tree-planting project at the Takoma Rec Center. (The Friends, naturally, wanted the project drastically scaled back, as it represented a departure from the status quo.) I asked one of the members how many active people there were in the Friends group and was told there were half a dozen.

    • If it is an “anti-gentrification” based political move, then it is sadly misplaced. The Takoma, Brightwood, Manor Park neighborhoods are filled with both new and long-time residents that own dogs.

      I do agree that it may be at the very least a “don’t stir the pot” political move.

    • Give ’em a few more years….these folks are dying off quickly.

  • Welcome to the DPR really doesn’t care what the DC citizens want club. This particular DPR Director really likes those one night, let’s have the Mayor show up for a photo type events. There is no interest in the day to day maintenance of existing facilities, much less improvements. Try finding a simple thing such as getting a on line list of classes at your local recreation center. You have to scan the entire schedule or maybe if you are lucky your center will have a paper list. Heck they can’t even post open accurate hours on their web site.

  • As a 20-year DC resident, this is the worst process I’ve seen in DC– imagine that! It has been delayed and secretive. Making matters worse, a supposedly open and public Friends of Takoma Park group is non-inclusive to residents. The neighbors trying to get a space for a dog park have been flexible and fair. This is DC government at its worst.

  • Just get a couple friends, some post hole diggers and fence off a part of the park. Bet that the city won’t do anything about it. Even if they do have heartburn over it it’ll take six agencies to get a removal order, three more to bid out the contract for removal, a special prosecutor to investigate the gross corruption in the final award to donor of the mayor. By then everyone will just think it had just always been there in first place.

  • Bowser and Todd, we the decades long residents of Takoma wer instrumental in getting you into office and unless you correct this dog park problem, we will also take you out of office. Both of you have FAILED to respond and ACT as representatives of the ward which you claim to rwpresent. I know for a fact there have been numerous emails and phone calls DIRECTLY to your offices requesting your assistance to this matter– a quality of life matter for citizens you claim to represent– a quality of life matter OVERWHELMINGLY SUPPORTED and REQUESTED by your consituents. I expect a response that corrects this matter quickly, or you will have political blowback for the remainder of your term. That is a promise. I AND PLENTY OTHER RESIDENTS HAVE ZERO TOLERANCE FOR POLITICIANS WHO IGNORE CLEAR MANDATES FROM THE MAJORITY OF CONSTITUENTS WHO WEIGH IN ON AN ISSUE. You are expected to do the right thing for the majority of your constituents, not political favors for a few of your friends. So tell us…what is your decision? Serve the majority or serve yourself and your friends?

    • Well boo on you and your friends for being instrumental in getting Brandon Todd into office. WTF were you thinking? This really can’t be such a surprise for you. Take a good long look in the mirror.

  • Ward4Paws

    First, THANKS to the POP and all the positive support in this thread! The Dog Park Group is very willing to work with DPR and the “Friends of Takoma Rec” to mediate a solution. The problem is that the “Friends” never wanted to engage, only block. Look, I get that you’ve lived here longer than all of us. I respect and appreciate that. But, times and needs change. We can all work together to reach a solution. The map linked below shows the property (almost 21 acres). There’s room for both kids and dogs!


  • I have to agree with the others that brought up the strong anti-gentrification sentiment in Brightwood. We made the paper a year ago for an older gentleman that keeps anti-gentrification signs in his yard. Personally my long-term neighbors have been extremely accepting of my family and fantastic neighbors. But on Nextdoor and the listserve I get a not of NIMBY attitude and anti-gentrification. A dog park seems like a really weird place to draw a line though. Quite a few of my neighbors that are long-term residents but not elderly have dogs. My suggestion would be to take it to the Mayor’s office.

  • I live in Brightwood, signed the petition, and am in favor of the dog park. I’ve been a silent witness to the work involved in getting the proposal this far by participating in the dog park google group. The second proposed location was the best of the three sites IMO, but for various reasons this site was chosen with DPR input. I must say I share disappointment with the process.

    All of this said, there’s been a lot of discussion about gentrification but not a lot of discussion about the price tag. DPR quoted a figure of $300,000 to the dog park group (less than other dog parks). The neighbors I have met who are not in favor of the dog park don’t object to the dog park, they object to the $300,000. They said they would rather have this money spent on kids from the neighborhood.

    As a Ward 4 resident and tax payer, I would love to know why the cost for the dog park is $300,000. If that cost can actually be justified, then I think it would be helpful to put it in perspective by comparing it to the DPR budget, spending in Ward 4 on other community needs, etc. People might say I am comparing apples to oranges, but I disagree. I think it’s important to know what percentage of money is being allocated to what causes. And in general, shining a light on where the money goes is the best way to achieve transparency.

    • I’ve heard that argument too but it isn’t really relevant. The money is already a part of DPR’s budget. Also, DPR just remodeled the park across the street from the proposed dog park. It is fantastic and complete with a water splash park. My daughter’s play group meets there. The cost or we could spend the money on something else is just a red herring. It is an attempt to make an argument against a dog park without really giving a reason you are against it.

  • I live in the neighborhood and attended the ANC meetings about the dog park. I’m familiar with the inefficiencies of government, but I was honestly shocked at the ineptitude of this whole process. This is the cherry on top. The ANC meetings were characterized by cowardly ANC commissioners who refused to move the vote forward and were illogically obstructionist. Ron Austin, specifically, had a Ted Cruzian “likability” to him– grandstanding and acting as if he were arguing in front of the Supreme Court, instead of talking to his neighbors in a police station meeting room. Despite heavy participation from both pro- and anti-dog park constituencies, he said he couldn’t render a vote until he talked with every single voter in the neighborhood– an unreasonable standard that he didn’t have for any other issue. After navigating that ineptitude successfully, it’s so disappointing to run into DPR’s incompetence.

  • As a long time Ward 4 resident, what should be made clear is that the anti dog park crowd was not opposed to having a dog park but was opposed to the location of the park on the soccer field. The original application gave approval to having dog park in the area, however a site was not specified. Did the ANC approve this particular site? I think not. Was there due diligence on the part of DPR to poll the neighbors who would be affected by the proximity to their houses on 3rd Street? Did anyone do an assessment of traffic or parking issues that would result from the location.? 3rd Street residents already have to contend with traffic/ parking issues from soccer/softball games in addition to swim competitions. There may have been a large contingent of pro-dog park people signing the petition ( I signed it not knowing the proposed location) but few people were informed of the final site (yes I know that two other sites were ruled out). What is interesting is that non affected residents have no problem with the proposed location which would displace/ take space from the soccer crowd…. but I wonder what would happen if the kiddie playground or the basketball or tennis courts were to be taken over for the purpose of a dog park. Let’s just say the entire process is flawed, is political (what isn’t in DC), and should be overhauled and improved for future ventures.

  • I believe dog parks are fine, but I do live at the location and the fields are used extensively…the post is false in that regard. I know there are many emotions around the issue, but you have to be truthful in your personal evaluation. The fields are used everyday, so that is my only point.

  • I am saddened as I read these comments…I understand the energy around the issue, but so many other issues are tossed around as if they do not matter…gentrification, elderly just going to die off, it is what we want, no one uses the area, etc. I would like to walk my child to school…but that has less emotion around it than this issue. I love my dog, walk her everday…never stepped in any poo and I am fine without a meeting place for dogs. Not against but don’t care for it. I have a young progressive family and see no value in it…that is okay. This issue has become divisive, and it will continue as all feel entitled to what they “specifically” want. I think the conversations for our neighborhood are not simply about this…but finding some level of understanding…both history and vision for the future and building that collectively. There are no good guys and bad guys, no heroes and villians…just people all needing to be heard with an opportunity to build a great community in the midst of enormous change.

  • Have to agree with the majority of comments here. I live in the neighborhood and I am a dog owner. The closest dog park is almost 2 miles away (in Silver Spring). Takoma Rec Center really is a perfect site for a dog park. Despite what some people have said there is a ton of unused open space in this area. Even away from all the athletic fields.

    There has to be a way to figure this all out.