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At Long Last, in Cabin John, Maryland, County Dogs Frolic Unfettered

Do you have a dog park in your town? Every town needs at least one… or three. If your answer is “no” maybe it’s time to start organizing your local dog lovers and hit the town meetings.

— Kenn

By Erin Donaghue for The Washington Post

First, Ferris, a shepherd and husky mix, bounded after one of his four tennis balls. Next, he rolled in newly laid mulch and then paused, appearing to ponder his next move, before taking a break at a doggy drinking fountain.

Running leash-free at the new dog park in Cabin John Regional Park, Ferris seemed to communicate his contentment with a wide, doggy grin. And, according to his owner, Erin Griffin of Potomac, Ferris will play happily at the park for years to come.

“It’s hard to find places where he can be free and run around; he really needs a fence,” said Griffin, sitting with fellow dog owners in a shaded area. “I can walk him in the morning, but that just takes the edge off.”

Rockville resident Lucia Baumgart, who stopped by the park with her 5-year-old mutt, Ella, agreed. “I think the exercise calms them down,” she said. “You get a dog that’s been cooped up in a back yard or at home with no exercise, and they can get hyper.”
Griffin and Baumgart are just two of the many county dog owners who say they are ecstatic about the dog park. In Montgomery County, designated dog parks are the only public areas where dogs are allowed to be off-leash, and owners say areas where their dogs can exercise, especially in the southern part of the county, are sorely needed.

Cabin John Dog Park, the first to be opened downcounty by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, opened Sept. 23. It joins three county dog parks, at Black Hill Regional Park in Boyds, Ridge Road Recreational Park in Germantown and Wheaton Regional Park in Wheaton. A fifth dog park, slated for Olney Manor Regional Park in Olney, is under construction, and Park and Planning is evaluating other sites to meet a high demand.

“I’ve been receiving phone calls and inquiries about this for quite some time,” said C.J. Lilly, a landscape architect and project manager for Park and Planning’s park development division. “Even when I go out to the site, people walking their dogs are very curious and anxious to know when the dog park is going to open, so there was a certain clamor and excitement building up around this.”

Construction on the $158,000 project in Cabin John, funded through the Capital Improvements Program, began the first week in July, Lilly said. The park is slightly more than an acre and features separate fenced areas for large and small dogs, as well as a rock climbing structure.

Downcounty dog owners say they welcome the park. Previously, they had to travel long distances to visit other dog parks or let their dogs off-leash illegally.

Baumgart said she has taken Ella to Wheaton Regional, but “the traffic is horrendous: If it’s after 3 in the afternoon, I knew I couldn’t get there,” she said. “Here, it’s just around the corner.”

Park and Planning took that into account when choosing the park’s location, Lilly said.

“The southern half of the county is where most of the residents are, and likewise, it’s where a high percentage of the dogs are,” Lilly said. “We like to have them where they will meet the need as well as possible.”

According to Griffin, the new park isn’t just a boon for dog owners.

“I think people who don’t have dogs can be happy, too, because now we have a place to go,” she said.

Cabin John Dog Park is in Cabin John Regional Park, at 10900 Westlake Dr., Bethesda. The dog park is free and is open from sunrise to sunset during regular park hours. It will be closed from 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesdays for weekly maintenance. A grand opening celebration is slated for Oct. 31.

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