Montgomery County’s decision to stop charging for use of the county’s dog parks has satisfied some frequent users of the dog park at Wheaton Regional Park, while others expressed concern that the lack of funding would result in poorer facilities.
In December, the county Department of Parks announced that it would stop collecting a $40 permit fee for use of the county’s five dog parks. The fee was imposed in July 2010.
“I always thought the fee was a little high, but I was willing to pay because it really is a great service,” said Donato Soviero, who takes his German Shepherd, Kumi, to the park frequently. “A lower fee may have been more reasonable, but I am certainly not complaining about removing it altogether.”
Another resident, Florence Bayard, said that she has been taking her dogs to the park for eight years. She said that the $40 fee was a waste of money and was not allocated properly.
“We’ve been asking for better gravel and more space for years, but our concerns were never answered," she said. "All they gave us was a play feature, which we didn’t even ask for."
However, Ilana Weisel, who takes her dog, Niko, to the park every day, said that she was concerned the removal of the fee could have a negative impact on the park.
“I always saw the fee as a safety net and was surprised when they got rid of it altogether," she said. "There are features we still need, such as a replenished surface."
Flip Pressman, who was playing with her dogs Oliver and Bailey in the park Friday afternoon, agreed that she was always content to pay the fee.
Bayard said that in her eight years of regularly coming to the park, the fee was seldom enforced.
“I wish people would pay more attention to the rules they established," Bayard said. "People shouldn’t bring their female dogs in heat or their unneutered males. That seems to cause most of the problems.”
When the county agreed to stop collecting a fee, the department stated one reason for the change was a decreased use of park space. Weisel said that since the fee was revoked in December, she has noticed a significant increase in the number of dogs playing in the park daily.
If Elaine Kujawa’s experience represents the thoughts of more local residents, the decision to revoke the fee will be successful in increasing usage.
“I never used the park before December," said Kujawa. "The $40 fee always seemed unreasonably high, so I’m glad they got rid of it."