Residents in Shaw have expressed frustration over accessing Shaw Dog Park during operating hours since it reopened Oct. 2, despite the Department of Parks and Recreation’s promise to maintain the posted hours.
The park’s reopening is part of the completion of the development for the new Banneker High School. The park was originally closed in April 2020 and was developed along with the high school.
Prior to its closure, residents were used to the Shaw Dog Park Association unlocking the park at 7 or 8 a.m. each morning. Since its reopening, DPR rangers have been tasked with unlocking the park, but residents say they are still waiting past 9 a.m. for access.
.@DCDPR , can someone open the Shaw Dog Park please? Still locked as of 9:25 on Sunday morning.
— Shaw Dog Park (@ShawDogPark) October 3, 2021
a neighbor tells me the shaw dog park didn’t open on time today. @311DCgov @DCDPR can you clarify operating hours and ensure rangers open the gates at the posted times? https://t.co/FEZ1F4XI5G pic.twitter.com/rmQQsbwG5g
— Michael Eichler – 6E01 (@Eichler4DC) October 3, 2021
Beth White, president of the Shaw Dog Park Association, said she is concerned about DPR’s current management of the park.
“That was part of the promise, that DPR rangers would open it and we would close it, but people are standing outside the park and it’s not open,” White said.
White said the association is in the midst of finding volunteers to open the park as DPR transfers the logistical process to the community.
DPR Director Delano Hunter said in an email the park previously operated outside its regular hours of operation because of involvement from the SDPA. Hunter also confirmed that the association is in the process of recruiting volunteers to help open the park early.
“In the meantime, DPR Park Rangers will open the new Shaw Dog Park in the morning and close in the evening,” Hunter said.
For White, there continues to be a lack of communication from the DPR. Past reports show how DPR did not immediately inform the community that the park was going to be closed as part of the development project for the new Banneker High School.
Even when it came to the park’s reopening, there was a lack of communication, according to ANC representative Michael Eichler.
“There was really no transparency about the opening date and everyone just assumed that it would open up in August with the school,” Eichler said.
— DC Parks &Rec #WhereFunHappens Safely (@DCDPR) August 28, 2021
Eichler said DPR would look into creating a channel within the D.C. government’s 311 toll free number where the community could voice their requests and concerns about the park. Currently, there is no phone line available. (Hunter said constituents can contact the DPR Customer Care Center at (202) 673-7647 or send an email to email@example.com.)
White, the park association president, said she is also concerned about the park’s new gravel terrain and that it wasn’t properly installed or prepared. She said there has been an excess amount of dust from the gravel covering park benches and visitors.
White worries that the “dust bowl” could create unclean conditions for visitors and their dogs.
“It’s aesthetics, its health, its cleanliness, it’s everything,” White said.
Local park-goer Will Arliss found the amount of dust to be unusual.
“That was a big annoyance I experienced when I left the park. I was wearing black shoes and I had to wipe a large amount off with a wet paper towel,” Arliss said.
Arliss visits multiple dog parks with his dog and said he hasn’t had a similar experience at Francis Dog Park, which uses a similar kind of gravel.
While the concern over the gravel and cleanliness may be warranted, the problem may also be temporary.
Nick Muoio, a civil superintendent at Resource Industries, a company that supplies aggregate materials for the D.C. area, said newly installed gravel will kick up excess dust at first but will dissipate over time.
“Usually with rain, the problem can go away,” Muoio said.
Hunter, the director of DPR, said in an email that the stone surface at Shaw Dog Park is the same surface that has been installed at the majority of DPR dog parks. Hunter added that the DC Department of General Services is responsible for maintenance of the dog park surfacing.
Hunter said DPR works closely with the Department of General services and their contractors to update the public quickly with information.
White said the community had raised issues about the terrain with the DPR early on during the planning and development process.
“We would give suggestions, we would have conversations about the surface and then they would tell us why they couldn’t do something we asked them instead of having the community be part of a design,” White said.
White also said the association had offered to pay for certain amenities like new benches and shade, but DPR declined.
White said DPR’s lack of engagement and follow through has left her and other community members frustrated.
White said DPR did pay attention, however, to the amount of space needed for the park. Original plans from 2019 showed a greatly reduced dog park and skate park as part of the Banneker development. Updated plans from 2020 showed the parks would maintain their original size.
According to White, the amount of space and preservation of trees has left most users of the park satisfied. Additionally, many are just happy the park is open again.
For Maya Siegel and her dog Rider, they’re excited to check out the reopened space.
“Rider loves the dog park. We usually go to the same one so it’s fun to take him to a new one,” Siegel said.