Dog Owners Continue to Question Dog Park Fees
Reaction mixed since Parks Department imposed fees in August; some pooch owners miffed over maintenance.
Playful barking echoed through Cabin John Dog Park last Tuesday at dusk. Pooches of all sizes, colors, and personalities jumped and played with new friends at the park, while their human companions watched.
Many of those human companions were unfazed by an annual fee that the county is now requiring for use of the dog park.
Others, though, weren't too pleased.
"I think they can cut the price in half," said Joanne Viola, of Bethesda, who lounged on a picnic bench in the dog park near her miniature poodle Coco.
Viola pointed to a growing puddle around a dog-sized drinking fountain and said the maintenance of the park didn't meet "the $40 standard."
She said the permit price would be more acceptable if the county could fix the puddle problem and maybe throw in some dog treats to sweeten the deal.
One Potomac resident walked his dog through the Cabin John park fields nearby, commenting that he used to frequent the pooch playground -- until the county instated a fee last month.
Reaction has been mixed since the county began requiring a permit for the dog parks on Aug. 1. The permits -- tags on the dogs' collars -- cost county residents $40 per year for the first dog and $5 for every one after that. Non-residents pay $48 per year for the first dog, $6 for additional dogs. If park police catch dogs using the park without a permit, the owners can be fined. Permits issued between now and December 2011 are good through December 2011.
So far, Montgomery County Department of Parks has issued 727 dog park permits, according to Kelli Holsendolph, a Parks Department spokeswoman. "Feedback we've received on our general information lines (email and phone) has been mixed, initially, with some questions about the change in policy and some suggestions on improving conditions at the dog parks," Holsendolph wrote in an email to Patch.
County park police will enforce the permits, and those who use the parks without one can be fined $50. However, no one has been fined yet, Holsendolph wrote. "Park Police is focused first on educating park users about this new permit requirement."
For many owners of the more than 25,000 dogs that are licensed in Montgomery County, the fee is a small expense to pay for use of a park where pooches can run unleashed.
"I think this park is a welcome addition," said Robin Harris, a Bethesda resident who brought her small standard poodle Stuart to the park Tuesday.
"I don't mind paying," Harris said of the permit fee. She noted that bags are provided to pick up after the dogs, and said, "I give it an A+."
For new Bethesda resident Trey Romero, buying a permit for Kiba, a rescue retriever mix, was the first thing he did after arriving in town three weeks ago.
"Where we come from, it's not normal, but if the fee goes toward maintenance of the park," he said, "I totally support it."
The park is located at 10900 Westlake Drive in Bethesda. It is open sunrise to sunset, or normal park hours. It closes from 9 to 11 a.m. every Tuesday for maintenance.