You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Nor apparently, can you charge its owners to use Montgomery County dog parks.
The Parks Department announced Dec. 27 that it would temporarily stop collecting its annual $40 fee to use its dog parks. The department instituted the fee in 2010 “to compensate for budget cuts; however, after noticing a decline in use of the facilities, the department has opted to do away with the fee and will explore other ways to make up the lost revenue,” the department said in a statement announcing the rescinding of the fee.
“Dog parks are such an important resource to the residents of this county, and we regularly receive requests for more,” said Parks Director Mary Bradford in the statement. “Our parks have come to serve as backyards for many residents as our county continues to urbanize. Dog owners should have a free, public place to play with and exercise their dogs.”
There are five Parks Department dog parks in the county — in Black Hill Regional Park in Boyds, Cabin John Regional Park, Olney Manor Recreational Park, Ridge Road Recreational Park in Germantown and Wheaton Regional Park. The parks are fenced off areas where owners can release their dogs and allow them to run free and play with other dogs. In other parks they are supposed to be leashed, according to the Parks Department website.
Montgomery County’s five dog parks cost about $48,000 a year to maintain, she said. In 2011, the department collected a little over $55,000 from permitting fees. But, in 2012, that revenue fell to about $24,600, said Melissa Chotiner, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department.
The department is exploring other options to raise the necessary revenue to support the dog park program, she said, including leasing unused park-owned buildings, and offering a corporate sponsorship and park naming program.
Michael Duncan, owner of the Germantown-based Doggy Play Days, said he often takes dogs to the Ridge Road park.
He said he thought cutting the fee was “great news.”
“I think it’s a great thing for the community,” he said, adding that the parks were “kind of a common thing,” like playgrounds.
“I feel we don’t need to be paying additional fees,” he said.
The county is planning on building additional parks in the future, said Chotiner. A recent study the department conducted indicated that there is a need for a dog park in the area inside the Beltway, based on the area’s population and the fact that there are no dog parks there, she said.