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Columbia Heights residents have long used the vacant, fenced-in land at 11th Street and Park Road NW as a dog park. But officially, it’s not a dog park. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority owns the land, much of which is taken up by vent shafts for the Green Line tunnel beneath the property.
Neighbors have been asking for years for amenities that real dog parks get, like a water source, a double-entry gate, and changes to the fence so small dogs can’t escape.
WMATA says it won’t stand in the way if the city decides to make that happen. Morgan Dye, a spokeswoman for WMATA, wrote in an email that the transit authority is willing to license the space to a third party for free, on a few conditions. Someone would have to insure the property to protect WMATA from damages, and WMATA vehicles would still need 24-hour access to reach its facilities.
WMATA itself doesn’t itself plan to make changes to the property to make it more suitable to dog owners. That’s up to the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, “though we would work with D.C. government to make this happen if they wanted to pursue it,” Dye said.
Dye said WMATA has held “many conversations” with community members—most recently in February—who have come together periodically to ask for improvements.
Two years ago, a group calling itself Friends of Columbia Heights Dog Park organized to push for changes. According to Robyn Swirling, who led that effort and met with WMATA in 2013, “conditions haven’t changed at all” since then. Swirling has moved on though: She’s since moved out of Columbia Heights.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery