Shaw residents are reeling after learning that a previously unannounced one year closure of the Shaw Dog Park would be required in order to allow construction of the geothermal walls of the new Banneker Academic High School, and that a long promised meeting with the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to discuss planning for the dog park, skate park and basketball courts was cancelled, with no new date announced.
In a meeting on Feb. 29 between the leaders of the Shaw Dog Park Association and DPR, the closing date of April 1 for the park was confirmed. Members of the association complained that: 1) they were never informed that the dog park would have to be closed to support the construction of Banneker on the site of the former Shaw Junior High School (Ninth Street and Rhode Island Avenue NW); 2) no one has explained why the park has to be closed and why it had to be closed for a year; and 3) they were never given the opportunity to discuss the possibility of keeping part of the park open. The only closures that had previously been discussed with the DC Public Schools (DCPS) were related to the reconfiguration and improvements to be made to the park.
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Alexander M. Padro (6E01), in whose single member district the park is located, expressed outrage at the closure during the February 29 meeting. “If geothermal wells aren’t going directly underneath the dog park, there’s no reason why the community should be deprived of the use of the park until the improvements are ready to begin,” said Padro.
The Shaw Dog Park was the first established in the District (in 2008) and remains its largest dog park. The non-profit supporting the park has property on the site and made improvements to the space, including adding trees. DPR was unable to address concerns about security and access to the equipment shed and maintenance of the trees during the closure. DPR promised to hold meetings in the future with the Shaw community to discuss the future of the dog park and other Shaw Recreation Center facilities, but no timeline has been offered to provide answers about the imminent dog park shutdown. A March 2 meeting with DC Public Schools on the status of the Banneker construction project might provide more answers about the future of the Shaw Dog Park.
First Heard in February
Shaw Dog Park advocates and the community first learned that the park would be closed at the Feb. 20th meeting of the association. Estimates were for up to a year beginning as early as April. Shaw Dog Park leaders got the news through a phone call the night before, but were unable to get any more information after the meeting.
Prior discussions between DCPS and the community did not mention any closures of DPR facilities during school construction until it was time to reconfigure them. Notification of the closures also came after the opportunity to complain at the DCPS performance hearing before the DC Council had passed.
“If DPR doesn’t want DCPS to keep throwing them under the bus, DPR needs to take over messaging on the dog park and recreation facilities upgrades,” Padro complained. “DCPS announced in November that a DPR community meeting would be held on the same night as the next Banneker construction update meeting, later scheduled for March 2. DPR now says they never agreed to that, even though DPR representatives were in the room at the time.”
“Finger pointing is only further eroding what little credibility these agencies still have where Banneker construction is concerned.”
Learn more about the Shaw Dog Park by visiting http://shawdogs.org/