Wheaton dog owners have one more gift coming their way this holiday season, courtesy the Montgomery County Department of Parks – the annual $40 dog park permit fee is no more.
The fee, which was instituted in July 2010, may have been keeping some dog owners away from the department’s five dog parks, said parks spokeswoman Melissa Chotiner, including the one at Wheaton Regional Park.
While parks officials don’t have numbers indicating use of the parks has declined, “anecdotally, we were hearing from park managers saying they were noticing the use has gone down since the permit fee was started,” Chotiner said.
The fee will be eliminated effective in January, and the department will look into ways to make up the lost revenue, according to a parks statement.
The fee was who told Patch it was too expensive and said more maintenance was needed at the parks.
Some said they had stopped using the parks altogether since the fee was implemented.
“These facilities are really very important to the residents of the county,” Chotiner said. “We know there’s a demand and we want to make them as accessible as possible. If the permit fee was any kind of financial barrier, we wanted to do away with that.”
The parks “have come to serve as ‘backyards’ for many residents as our county continues to urbanize,” Parks Department Director Mary Bradford said in a statement.
A survey conducted as part of the 2012 Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan, which provides guidance for county recreation needs for the next 10 years, pointed to a need for as many as 12 more dog parks on park property.
Parks officials are researching which areas of the county have the greatest need for new dog parks, Chotiner said.
Montgomery Parks’ five dog parks are located in Black Hill Regional Park, Cabin John Regional Park, Olney Manor Recreational Park, Ridge Road Recreational Park and Wheaton Regional Park.
Are you happy to see the dog park permit fee go? Where would you like to see a new dog park in the county? Tell us in the comments.