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Guy Mason Group May Seek Formal Dog Park

By David Gutman

Current Correspondent

There is no dog park at Guy Mason Recreation Center. That might surprise neighborhood dog owners who are accustomed to using part of the center’s grounds as an off-leash area. It might even come as a surprise to the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, which lists “dog park” as one of the features of the rec center on its website.

The dog park at Guy Mason is unofficial. The city has not yet designated it as an official off-leash area, and dogs owners who let their dogs off leash there could conceivably be ticketed.

There is a push, however — led by the Friends of the Guy Mason Recreation Center — to get the dog park formally recognized. The thinking is that if the designation is made official, the space can be reserved for dogs for the long term.

“The general tone I’ve heard from the community is, ‘We want there to be a place for dogs in this park,’” said Dan Melman, president of the Friends of Guy Mason Recreation Center, a volunteer organization. “Should we be official or unofficial? Well, I don’t think we’re going to be able to stay unofficial. I would rather be in the right and then, if the city wants to do something different, they have to go through some procedure.”

Melman said that the city’s attention had been elsewhere — major renovations of the recreation center and nearby Stoddert Elementary were recently completed — but seems to be returning to the dog park.

“I think there’s the natural inclination of people to think, ‘If it’s not broke, why are we fixing it?’” Melman said. “My sense is it ‘wasn’t broke’ because there were too many other things going on between Stoddert’s renovation and our renovation.”

A group has formed to collect signatures and submit an application for a dog park to the Department of Parks and Recreation. Once the application is submitted, there will be a period for public comment, the Glover Park advisory neighborhood commission will weigh in, and the city will rule on the application. Melman expects the application to be ready within 30 days.

If the application is accepted, Guy Mason will be subject to the city’s official dog park operating rules. Among those, there can be no more than one dog for every 450 square feet of park, no handler can bring more than three dogs, handlers must be at least 16 years old, and dogs must have registration tags issued by animal control.

There has been some consternation that legitimizing the dog park would force dog walkers to limit themselves to three dogs. Melman dismisses that concern, pointing out that right now dog walkers and others are already technically violating the rules by letting dogs off leash.

“These dog walkers are in business,” he said. “They’ll figure it out. … We think there should be an off-leash park in our area, and Guy Mason makes sense.”

This article appears in the April 4 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.