8.17.2009

Reader submitted: fancy dog park on S street

Mayor Fenty and others break ground at new dog park. Photo via DCist via Flickr

A few weeks ago reader Aida wrote in about the new dog park near New Hampshire Avenue and S Street in Dupont Circle. Remember that this was during the whole budget crunch debate, where vital city services were getting cut left and right. The dog park is quite fancy, complete with special astroturf called "K9Grass." It's 5,600 square feet, and has ornate fencing, a seating area, and water fountains for the dogs. You can see a Department of Parks and Recreation press release about the park here.

Since this is such a super-fancy park, I wanted to find out how much it cost to build. Maintenance will be shared between the city and Circle Dogs, a neighborhood group. I put in a request for information about construction costs with DPR a few weeks back, receiving no reply. I emailed Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) who forwarded my request to DPR.

Today I received an email from Sarah Moulton a community planner at DPR. The cost of the S Street park was $552,700.51.

So there's the figure. Make of it what you will. A little over half a million dollars for a fancy dog park. Now, I'll admit, this dog park will be fancy. I mean, really fancy. Nicer than most playgrounds for human children. I can't tell you if that price tag is a good deal or not for what the city is getting. On principle I'm not sure how I feel about the city paying for a dog park. I suppose it will raise property values in the area a little tiny bit, and it'll make dog owners happy. However, I can think of a few things that half a million dollars could be used for that would probably be more useful. Even if it had to be spent by DPR.

A fancy dog park in a rich neighborhood just seems wasteful at a time when the city is having to freeze hiring for police officers and cut services to the poor. It appears to be somewhat of a Big Deal to Dupont residents, with people upset with the poor communication between DPR and the community regarding delays in construction. DPR is terrible with communication, I've had faster responses from the DC DMV and the Office of Tax and Revenue. And nothing compares to DCRA's less than 10-minute answers via Twitter. However, complaining about how your fancy expensive dog park is delayed makes you look a bit foolish when you have homeless people on the street just a few blocks away.

What do you think? Half million for a dog park... complete waste of money?

25 comments:

  1. Yes, a complete waste of money. I'm not real sure what the appeal of having a dog in the city is honestly. So the minute you come home from work you can immediately take the dog out for a walk so it doesn't crap all over your house? Is there some sort of bizarre pleasure to be found in being forced out into early morning rains?

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  2. this is totally ridiculous. Half a mil for a park for dogs??? I've never seen such a fancy park in my life, and it's for dogs. The only dog parks I've come across have been fenced in lots of grass. So dogs of rich ppl get treated better than those that go hungry in the streets.

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  3. It's now on of the very few legal fenced dog park in the city. Enough to make it significant to me. That park was an eyesore before, so any needed upkeep would have probably cost the same. At least now future maintenance is covered in part by the dog owners.

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  4. Just to set the record straight, I believe the 550k was for the renovation of T Street Park as well (located catty-corner to the S Street park). Is it still expensive? Of course.

    However, you then go on to say the following: "A fancy dog park in a rich neighborhood just seems wasteful at a time when the city is having to freeze hiring for police officers and cut services to the poor."

    This statement is just demonstrates a miserable understanding of how municipal budgets work. The city has two budgets: an operating budget and a capital budget. An operating budget pays for personnel and programs, such as the police officers and social services you cite above. Those items are paid for out of the regular taxes that the city collects (income, sales, property, etc.)

    Those items, however, have nothing to do with the capital budget, which pays for anything tangible (e.g. school buildings, fire trucks, and yes, parks). The money in the capital budget comes from completely different revenue streams; I believe that over 90% of DC's capital budget comes from the sale of municipal bonds. Additionally, capital construction projects are approved and paid for years before construction ever begins. Would this project gain approval in today's budget climate? Probably not. But to claim that somehow $500k was simply transferred from the police or schools into a dog park is a gross characterization of how the city budget operates.

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  5. Holy shit they have water for the dogs? Like to hydrate them? That's fuckin fancy!

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  6. As I said there are things that $500k could be better spent on. Note I said even if it had to be spent by DPR. I'm an intelligent person who does understand budgets and I still think it gives DPR and Dupont residents a bad image. It just seems a poor allocation of resources, even if it is capital budget allocations.

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  7. I know someone who would love to show his love of puppies by paying for this project, especially after his unconvincing performance on 60 Minutes last night.

    See:

    http://notionscapital.wordpress.com/2009/08/17/michael-vick-signed-to-nfl-amid-howling-controversy/

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  8. Dog parks are a great idea.

    And as soon as we have sufficient recreational facilities for all dogs, we might want to look at providing adequate services for the homeless.

    But hey, first things first.

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  9. ah jeez, The district budgt is $5.4 BILLION and you all are quibbling over $500k? 500 g's may indeed be too much to pay on a dog park. I generally dislike pet, particularly dog, owner's sense of entitlement that leads them to, for instance, let their dogs go leash-free(note to dog owners - I don't want to pet your fucking dog. Keep it away from me.) But if this shuts them up and helps stem the piles of dog poo in front of my house, then I'm fine with blowing the cash. Screw the homeless, uneducated, and impoverished.

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  10. It does seem pricey. But it does apparently include the non-dog area on T Street, and that looks like fairly extensive work.

    And DC Parks and Rec spends butt-tons of $$ on human parks, then allows them to become overgrown, unpleasant, unsafe, etc.

    So if I had to choose between a dog park that would actually be maintained (apparently this one has been 'adopted') and yet another million dollar Parks and Rec boondoggle, I'd go with the dog park.

    If we are serious about $$ for the homeless, we'd all be advocating to sell or long-term lease the Mitch Snyder shelter and the Gales School shelter and any other shelter on super high dollar real estate. Sell or lease it to office developers, then use those tens of millions in annual income to make the most splendiferous homeless program you can dream up.

    But we don't. We use that $$ instead to make sure that our homeless shelters are in super high dollar locations, primarily to make sure the homeless are properly 'visible' as a political gesture.

    If we'd give up on that concept we could instead fund homeless programs probably ten times bigger and better than what we have at those locations and similar ones in other pricey areas.

    It's just that they'd be in less swank locations. Near, say, suburban jobs that the homeless could actually get (what jobs are they getting downtown right now)?

    Does anyone really think the Mitch Snyder shelter being where it is is going to convince Congress to fork over extra funds to DC for homeless services? If anything it will cause them to do the opposite.

    As long as we choose pricey high-profile real estate locations over actual homeless programs then we have no one to blame but ourselves for a lack of $$ for programs.

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  11. Great, so my dog will be well taken care of the next time I walk him to Dupont. I wonder when DC will fix at least one of the city's hundreds of human-style public water fountains, so that I can get a drink too?

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  12. Dog parks are great for the city, as it brings a sense of community AND a place for dogs to run around. But I've seen this park and I have to admit, it looks ridiculous. There's a huge hill smackdab in the middl of it. The fenced-in area for dogs are only in half of the whole park. And astro turf?? Jeez, Louise.

    I (and my dogs) would've been happy with a simple and large closed-in area, water pump, and gravel. The Rhode Island/11th St dog park is a perfect example.

    This park is a huge disappointment after hearing all about the planning that went into this project!

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  13. Is half a million a lot to spend on a dog park? Absolutely. And I say this as an owner of two dogs. The park was an eyesore before, but it didn't bother me. Now I doubt I will even go, because the fancifying of the park will bring out everyone and their mother and I'm sure the place will be packed. And subsequently trashed, as with all nice things in the city.

    To address the money issue - could we have found something else to spend it on? Sure. But if you think by putting more money toward an already lackluster police department is going to help them solve more crimes, I doubt it. It would only mean that there would be now 10 cops instead of the usual 8, socializing in front of 7-11. But that and budget derivation conversations aside, I agree that the funds could have been used for something more useful. However, you would have to rely on the folks "downtown" to appropriate the funds. And frankly, I'm not convinced some of them can find their car in the mornings much less intelligently identify badly needed places for funding.

    I'm also totally confused as to how they think "Circle Dogs" will magically regroup and take responsibility for the maintenance. Circle Dogs is before my time here and I've lived in the neighborhood for 5 years. I believe most of those original people are long gone by now - having moved to places where getting a simple dog park built doesn't take 10 years and half a million dollars.

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  14. While not everyone in the neighborhood is wealthy (ahem), this park is a riduclous project. In talking with my neighbors, we would have been just as happy with a fence around the previously existing park. However, DPR came up with this and the behind schedule, over budget project is driving most neighbors insane.

    While I think this specific project is stupid, I do think that well maintained public spaces, including dog parks, are a major attraction to young people and families in terms of choosing a place to live. A nice park will increase people's property value and increase tax revenue for the city.

    That said, this project is a joke on DPR. This is what happens when you pay too much for a fancy park with ZERO oversight.
    But don't blame the neighbors. Blame DPR.

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  15. DC got a pretty good deal on this dog park compared to what arlington spent on its newest dog park in clarendon.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/01/17/ST2008011701840.html

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  16. Awesome. Dogs rock. The dog parks in Arlington are enjoyed just as much by the dog owners as they are by the dogs. Congratulations residents of DC for getting some cool stuff for a change!

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  17. For everyone who is outraged regarding this waste of city resources, please remember the faces of the smiling elected officials in the pic above and do not support these people in the next city election.

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  18. I would like to repeat that the $550,000 figure is likely for both the S Street dog park and the neighboring T Street regular park.

    There is a total of $1.2 million in capital funds budgeted for building dog parks. If you have alternate ideas about where capital funds should be budgeted, maybe you should actually organize your fellow District residents around those ideas, instead of complaining about the fact that other residents have organized around ideas you don't like. It took dog owners quite a number of years to get the dog park rules passed and get funds allocated to build them. I'm a member of a dog park organization in a different neighborhood and we have volunteered TONS of time to put together our application, work with DPR and raise money for amenities and maintenance of the park.

    These parks are being built because citizens have convinced DPR to do so. If there's something else you want money spent on, put in the time and effort to get it.

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  19. According to DPR,

    "The cost of S Street Triangle Park (which includes the plaza, landscaping, and dog park) is $552,700.51."

    I don't think that also includes T Street

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  20. Dog Parks are not projects DPR wishes to be dealing with. First, look to your council members who put this albatross around the neck of DPR. Then look to your neighbors whose greyhounds need a place to crap outside of their 500 sq. ft. apartments.

    As I am sure you are all construction managers you will all be aware that when revitalizing a space as large as the S Street dog park from curb to curb; you're likely to run into city agencies that require you to make improvements to infrastructure in return for permit approval. Then you'll need to take into account that higher up front expenditures are often made to reduce long term expenditures (ie, spend a lot on K-9 grass now instead of replacing turf every year in the future). Further, in a historic district you'll need to meet the requirements of the historic review board and their ridiculous fencing requirements. Oh, and if you are aware that this site is a stupid place for a dog park, note that your Council Members will over rule you because they are douche-nozzles of the first order.

    Yes, DPR has problems, but I think you'll find a pretty capable group in the planning and capital projects division.

    NB- I am a former Capital Projects Division planner. I am biased. However, it seems most of you have never actually implemented a project beyond remodeling your kitchen...which you probably did without permits.

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  21. It's really simple, folks. Now that there's a dog park, my wife and I are more likely to stay in the area. We can't think of living without a dog. We're both high earners. Without a dog park like this, we're more likely to leave the area.
    Thus, by spending a relatively measly amount on a park, the city is more likely to capture my taxes. Let us hope that, with the additional tax revenue, they'll be able to fund more social programs and beautify the rest of the neighborhood.

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  22. Hello to All,

    I am creating a short video on the new dog park in Dupont Circle. I would like to interview people who are for and against the park being opened. If you are interested, please email me at aim4positive.videos@gmail.com

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  23. it's waaaaay too small

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  24. it seems a nice,,,,,,,,,..........thanks!

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