Olympian Gus Kenworthy just rescued a new pup named Birdie. The Humane Society International saved Birdie after she was born on a meat farm in South Korea, and then Gus came to DC to adopt her from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. What was one of their very first stops after she was adopted? That’s right—the Columbia Heights Dog Park! Thank you Gus for saving dogs and for your dedication to making others aware of the cause.
Thanks to the overwhelming support for the dog park, the Council has allocated funds to save it. The FY2019 budget includes $1.5 million to purchase the Columbia Heights Dog Park from WMATA. The Council's final vote on the budget was May 29, 2018. The budget is now on the mayor's desk, awaiting her signature.
Members of the Council deserve our thanks. You can send them an email to thank them here.
Next, the District and WMATA will have to negotiate the sale of the property, and dog park supporters need to start raising money to share the costs of improving the park. You can donate to our efforts to improve the park here.
On May 14, The Washington Post highlighted our efforts to save the dog park on the front page of the Metro section. Dog park regular Kaitlyn Love explained to the Post that she is concerned the DC Council will fail to allocate funds to buy that park and then "we’ll lose this community — because that’s really what it is, a community.” "
The article also asked the candidates in the Ward 1 Council race about the park. According to the article:
- Councilmember "[Brianne] Nadeau has spent months lobbying for $1.5 million in the council’s 2019 spending bill that would allow the city to buy the land. Should that fail, she said, the mayor might still be able to reallocate money to buy the park if it were for sale."
"'My sense is that we don’t need to panic just yet,' Nadeau said. 'There’s still other possibilities. But gosh, wouldn’t it be great if we could just get this done?'”
- Ward 1 Candidate, "Jamie Sycamore, a dog owner, said Nadeau’s proposal falls short of what he believes the community needs: He would propose setting aside $3 million for the park."
"'That safety net is to make sure there’s enough money to be invested in everything that needs to get done,' said Sycamore, whose dog, Rory, has visited the park. 'If you want to show you’re really invested in the community, invest in the community. Pick up a shovel. Show you care.'”
- "Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kent C. Boese, said that $1.5 million might be too much. The city, he said, should take stock of its public land and get more input before determining if the park’s location is its best option."
"'If we are using public funds for the property, we should have a bigger conversation . . . rather than funneling money toward a predetermined outcome,' he said. 'Maybe it is the best site for a dog park. Maybe it isn’t. Either way, how can we know that unless we’re exploring all of our options?'”
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.