On Thursday, April 12, seven park supporters spent their afternoon asking the DC Council to add funding to the FY2019 budget to purchase the Columbia Heights dog park from WMATA.
As you might already know, WMATA owns the property at 11th and Park, but has let us use the land for a dog park since 2009. Now, WMATA wants to sell the land. Our only chance at saving the park is for the District to buy the land and make it an official city park.
On Thursday, the DC Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment held a hearing on the parks and recreation budget. Five people testified before Chairwoman Mary Cheh (Ward 3) in support of the park. Lori Robertson, Chair of 11th and Bark, spoke about the nonprofit that has been trying to work with WMATA to improve the park for several years. Eva Guenther explained to the committee that the park is about more than just the dogs, it is also about the relationships and community is fosters. John Henderson, of Green Spaces for DC, testified about the importance of green space and that the Columbia Heights neighborhood is already lacking in parks. Yared Mekbib, spoke to his many years as a park-goer and what the park means the neighborhood. And, Penelope Poole, spoke to her experiences in the park and how she and her husband, who is blind, chose their home so that Aaron's service dog could use the dog park.
Park supporters also presented the Council with the petition, signed by more than 1,400 DC residents; statements in support of the park from 216 DC residents; and letters from 11th Street businesses and neighborhood nonprofits.
Councilwoman Cheh expressed concern that we could lose our well-established, strongly-supported, and well-loved park. She noted that once you lose green space you never get it back and that the District can't allow every square inch of land to be turned into buildings. She also expressed interest in trying to work with Councilmember Jack Evans (Ward 2), who is also the Chair of the WMATA Board, to try to find the funds to purchase the land.
Convincing Councilmember Cheh to take an interest in our park is a huge step forward that we could not have done without park-goers signing the petition and engaging in social media advocacy. But we haven't won yet. We need to do more.
Now, we need
- park-goers to call and email members of the Committee.
- a good showing at the April 21 park cleanup to show that we will take care of an official park if the District buys it.
- you to come to our next happy hour, Wednesday, April 18 at 6:30 at Wonderland to help take action and thank those who testified on your behalf on Wednesday.