It seems as though Mayor Fenty is making a name for himself in this town by sprucing up or completely rebuilding some of our parks, and not without controversy. These parks aren’t just getting some new grass and a drinking fountain. They’re getting new landscaping, artificial turf, benches, fencing, ornate stone walkways, and additional lighting. Oh, and drinking fountains. Dog drinking fountains.
The first park to mention, one that I see every day, is the new dog park at New Hampshire and S Street NW. The cost of this park and its sister park on T Street is coming in at over a half a million dollars and has been closed for seven months now during construction. The ground breaking ceremony in February included speeches by Fenty, former director of Parks and Recreation Clark Ray, and DC Councilmember Jack Evans, and was concluded with a dirt-scooping photo op, complete with golden shovels. We can only assume that the golden shovels were included in the half a million dollar price tag.
Ground Breaking With Golden Shovels
The old dog park was not a dog park at all, but rather a park that neighborhood dog owners had decided to claim as their own. Much to the dismay of neighbors who did not own dogs, the park that was slowly transformed from a nice, quiet green space to a dust bowl that you wouldn’t dream of having a picnic at. The grass disappeared as a result of dogs tearing around on it, leaving behind a field of dirt and inevitably doggie doodie that some owners failed to pick up. Most owners (including myself from time to time) let their dogs off the leash to play with one another despite the park not having a fence and despite the city’s leash law. Occasionally a dog would run out into the street to say hello to another dog or to chase a stray ball, leading to the dog’s demise. For years, tension built between dog owners, the police who occasionally gave out tickets, and other people in the neighborhood.
The solution to this eyesore was to build a brand new park, one where dog owners and others could coexist. The park is divided roughly into thirds, two thirds dog park, one third people park. The dog section is now fenced in and has double gates so that other dogs can’t come in or out when the gate is opened. There is a drinking fountain that will allow the dogs to have fresh water and circular benches around the trees for owners to sit on while their dogs frolic with other dogs. To the surprise of many, the middle of the dog section does not consist of gravel or grass like some dog parks have, but rather a giant mound of artificial turf — it really is a sight to behold. It will no doubt be easier to clean up doggie doodie if it’s in good form, but I’m curious to see what happens if a dog is having a bad day. Hopefully there will be a readily accessible hose to clean the turf when necessary. The people section of the park consists of a few long benches and some nice landscaping which hopefully won’t turn into a place for homeless people to sleep. The ribbon cutting ceremony is slated for September 4th at 4:00pm and WLDC will be there to cover it for you.
The next park, actually a soccer field, was written up by the Washington Post today and is being dubbed “Fenty Field”. Located at Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Columbia Heights, the new soccer field “cost taxpayers $558,000, appears to rival those at colleges. It features artificial turf, safety padding, bleacher-style seating for 250 spectators, a wrought-iron fence, team bleachers and soccer goals with new netting.”
Mayor Fenty seemed pretty proud of the new field when he said, “People from Maryland and Virginia are going to drive by these fields and say, ‘We want these fields.’” The highlight, and what seems to be causing a bit of controversy, is the giant city logo in the middle of the field with “Mayor Adrian M. Fenty” scrawled across it. Fenty was asked if it was common for a mayor’s name to be so prominently displayed on a school’s field to which he replied (as only Fenty could), “I don’t know.” The D.C. Republican Committee is calling for the immediate removal of his name from the field.
It seems as though controversy likes to follow Mayor Fenty around. Whether he’s not informing the media of his whereabouts, hiring friends to drive him around town, or building parks at $500,000 a pop, at least we can be glad he’s paying his taxes and not smoking crack.