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In what could be his last ribbon cutting—erm, “leash cutting”—before becoming a lame duck, this morning Mayor Adrian Fenty officially opened the way-more-controversial-than-it-oughtta-be Newark Street Dog Park off Wisconsin Avenue. The 10,000-square-foot, $400,000 canine playground had been a decade in the planning stages, as gardeners and surrounding condo owners fought the conversion of a grassy meadow into gravel.
Near the conclusion of a race that has been marked by grumbling that the Mayor has prioritized fripperies in wealthy neighborhoods over more pressing needs elsewhere, Fenty assured the dog owners that he was one of them (video here).
“Dog parks are fantastic,” Fenty said, over the howls of restless pooches. “First of all, they don’t cost much money, in comparison to anything else that we build in the District of Columbia government. And they really are well appreciated. Full disclosure, I do not own a dog right now. But that’s gonna change.”
The political awkwardness went even further. Flanked by current Department of Parks and Recreation director Jesus Aguirre, Fenty praised the DPR director he’d fired, at-large council candidate Clark Ray, for his work pushing the dog park forward (which helped land Clark the Madeline Albright seal of approval). But there was no mention of endangered at-large councilmember Phil Mendelson, who had also fought for the dog park during the last round of budget negotiations. Meanwhile, the Mayor also had kind words for Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, a few days after she made her long-obvious support for his opponent official.
And behind the approving crowd, a few diehard opponents made their presence known. Gardener and Cathedral Heights resident Peggie Lewis, who testified before the city council against the park in 2004, says dog poo will stink up the neighborhood and run off into the children’s playground down the slope.
“We’re not opposed to dog parks—in the right place,” she said, noting that the city had previously put the cost at $600,000.
“It’s really a misuse of city land,” added Jake Lewis.
“Would you like to own a condo across the street from all these yapping dogs?” asked another protestant. “They took away the only piece of open land in the neighborhood. Dog owners are really a minority. They’re loud, but they’re a minority.”