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Dog park raises howls in Alexandria

Who's responible: City of Alexandria

Alexandria may be known as one of the most dog-centric cities in a region full of dog lovers: there are dog-friendly bars, hotels, even dog-friendly Potomac River cruises. But residents of the historic Old Town said one attraction that isn't very dog friendly -- the dog park!

"It's bad enough that the only fenced dog park in Old Town Alexandria looks like a prison exercise yard in a 1930s B movie," Janine Harris wrote. "Worse, the perpetually broken 'gate' is a safety issue that has been neglected for decades."

While most modern dog parks have a gated vestibule area for leashing and unleashing pooches, the only entrance to this one is a double gate wide enough to accommodate a dump truck, and the latch is a design worthy of Rube Goldberg (see photos on jump).

Alexandria officials acknowledged a design flaw in the gate, and they fixed the latch, but said that the extra-wide gate would have to remain in order to allow the groundskeepers to mow the lawn inside the park. Roger Blakely, the deputy director for parks and recreation in Alexandria, said he had visited the dog park and knew that it was in desperate need of an upgrade.

"They built these dog parks before they knew what dog parks needed to be," he said.

Bruce Machanic of the Old Town North Community Partnership said that his group had been spearheading renovations of Montgomery Park, including the dog run, for the past 10 years. He said the group has worked with the city to add benches, remove a rusty fence and build a new concert pavilion, but they tabled plans to rebuild the dog run when the city and the group ran into funding trouble.

"It's been two years since I've even looked at the plans," he said.

Machanic said the group distributed a survey to local dog owners, and received a number of suggestions to improve the park including a new gate, new fencing, trees for shade and more seating.

Judy Lo in the Alexandria Parks and Recreation Department of Planning said in an email that the city will begin going over plans for phase one of the dog park renovation this fall, and construction could begin as early as April of next year.

"We're bringing it up to standard as quickly as possible," Blakely said, noting that the city has 109 parks and that the agency is doing its best to balance the needs of dog owners with those of the wider community.

"We never have enough funding to do everything we need, so we do the best with what we have," he said.


By Will Koper  |  August 2, 2010; 3:47 PM ET
Categories:  Unfixed , Virginia  
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