Inside City Hall: Yea to dog park, nay to rec center

Six months ago, more than 100 children and adults from the Crispus Attucks Recreation Center flooded into the monthly meeting of the Recreation and Parks Advisory Board, protesting the possible closing of their West Baltimore facility.

They vastly outnumbered – and most certainly out-talked – three members of Friends of Patterson Park Dog Park Canton Dog Park [see correction in comments below] who had come to advocate for their cause.

In the last 24 hours, the fate of each group has become clear.

Late yesterday, the Rawlings-Blake administration announced that Crispus Attucks would be one of four rec centers that will close after the conclusion of summer camp on August 10.

This morning, the Board of Estimates, controlled by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, approved Rec and Park contract 11870 to build a fenced-in dog park at Patterson Park.

The $195,000 contract, awarded to DSM Properties LLC, will create a 220-by-60 foot dog park on the west side of Linwood Ave., replacing two poorly-maintained tennis courts at the site.

Long a dream of the Friends group, the park will include a large dog and small dog unit, each with its own water source, plus a mix of asphalt pavement, boulders and artificial turf for canines to run around.

Another feature will be a stone bridge over a small pond, plus trees to provide shade for those hot summer evenings. It will be the second city-designed dog park (the first, at Locust Point’s Latrobe Park, opened in 2009).

Crispus Attucks has been fixture of the Madison Park area of West Baltimore for more than 40 years.  Activities at the center include football, lacrosse, soccer, color guard, track and field, Girl Scouts/Brownies, roller skating, yoga, drama, chess, arts and crafts, ceramics, crochet, jewelry making, needlepoint, pottery, aerobics, martial arts, modeling, nutrition classes, water aerobics, weight training, dance and computer classes, according to the Rec and Parks website.

It also hosts Great Science for Girls, a program funded through the National Science Foundation.

According to rec bureau chief Bill Tyler, the average annual price of operating a city rec center is $181,790. If Crispus Attucks fits the average, the cost of its yearly programs and upkeep come to 7% less than building the new dog park, which is expected to open this fall.

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  • Bmorepanic

    So typical and it breaks my heart.

  • MairZdoatz

    I don’t have any kids. I truly love my dog but would never put her ahead of Baltimore kids. How does a ‘broke’ city have the audacity to keep ‘finding’ money and show such skewed priorities all in one BOE vote?

  • Beardo

    I realize that it comes down to the money, but it’s a shame that the happiness of dogs is more important to the city than the happiness of its youngest citizens.

    Also, the tennis courts are in fairly good condition (considering they’re in a Baltimore City park) and always in use.  I play there at least 3 times per week.  Were other areas of Patterson Park considered for the dog park before deciding on removing 2 tennis courts?  It doesn’t make sense to remove one amenity and replace it with another when there is so much open space in Patterson Park, especially west of the lake.    

  • Justin Winokur

    The Locust Point dog park is nice, as is the one in Canton (which you didn’t mention), and I do enjoy taking my dog there. However, and more importantly, Rec centers are good for Baltimore. But, that is not the issue. This article pits this as a zero-sum, this-or-that option. Rather than putting money into a 2-day pollution/noise fest geared towards out-of-towners, why not put that money into all forms of recreation. Or, reform the police department so that 5 figure settlements don’t happen. I could go on and on. The point is, putting money into something that will get more people outside and make Baltimore and better place to live is more important than a lot of other expenses. Whether it be dog parks or rec centers. It is disingenuous of The Brew to put it as they did. I am frankly a bit disappointed in this reporting.

    My other issue is that they talk about the money for the rec center for 1 year vs a new dog park. What are the recurring costs of the dog park? (I genuinely do not know, but it is an important aspect of the question at hand).

    • Anonymous

      From B Brew: The Canton dog park was not mentioned in the story because it wasn’t designed by the city and, being much smaller and less elaborate, is not especially similar to the Locust Pt and Patterson Park sites. The maintenance of the parks will be shared by the Friends groups and the city, but, yes, there will be some operating city costs, which Rec and Parks hasn’t broken down (and probably doesn’t know itself). -MR

    • Wickerman0

      Why is it that people continually project thier own feelings onto
      facts reported by the Brew. Can you tell us Justin, what part of this
      article is disingenuous. I dont see this as a zero-sum this or that,as
      you put it. What I see is a city that habitually ignores its less
      affluent areas with the mantra we have no money. Reference this
      article about taking money from the Westport area to give to the Fells
      Point area.

  • bosconet

    I think I understand the difference.  The dog park is a a one time expense (primarily). It is also a easy win with some voters who probably have no use for any Rec Center let alone ones located in West Baltimore.  And the citizens in West Baltimore who will be affected are (sadly) used to being ignored by City Hall. And MOST IMPORTANTLY, by doing this now the assumption is that the voters in West Baltimore who are affected by these closings will still come out to vote for the Mayor because they will forget by then.

    So in summation, this is a deeply cynical move by the administration to cut expenses while minimizing the impact on future votes.

  • Curtis

    Whatever happened to bake sales and community engagement in raising funds?  Friends of Patterson Park Dog Park could do more than just create  sign-up sheet and send emails if the dog park is wanted by many and adds value to the neighborhood.  $195K isn’t that much, yet it goes a long way when rec centers are closing.  So it takes a few years longer than a stroke of a pen.     

    • Rametag

       I’m not sure I would have spent the money on the dog park. But, that doesn’t mean I advocate spending it on the rec center either. The money saved by not building the dog park would have paid for one year of operations for the rec center. Then what? The fact is that the city does not have the money to continue to support the number of rec centers, fire stations, etc., that were built when the city’s population was much larger. Like it or not, some right-sizing needs to occur. Unfortunately, too many people would rather make the sweeping generalization “that if only we didn’t waste money on unimportant things there would be enough for the important things.” That is, regrettably, not true.

  • Justin Winokur

    Wickermano, I was not projecting my feelings onto the article. I agree that rec centers are important, even more so than dog parks, but just about any way you read this article, it comes out as the city should have pulled the money from the dog park and gave it to the rec center. Look at the last paragraph: “cost of [the rec center’s] yearly programs and upkeep come to 7% less than building the new dog park.” Sure, the author never _explicitly_ said that we should pull from one to the other, but it was pretty clearly putting them against each other.

    The article you linked to is slightly different in that it was a specific fund from which the money was pulled. In that case, the reality was that it was one vs the other. Based on what was written in this article, that was not the case. If I am incorrect, please inform me.

    My point was that there are many ways in which the city is wasting money that should be used for the rec center, but that is not to say that the dog park is a waste (though it does seem rather expensive).

  • Justin Winokur

    Also, any doubt that I was reading the article wrong went away when I checked Facebook and saw it advertised as “Canines v. kids”

  • carl

    I tend to agree with Justin Winokur here. There are certainly different, perhaps more appropriate, ways of reporting this.  Presenting these two line items on the city’s budget, aside from saying that they were brought up at the same meeting, does connotate that the Brew views this as a ‘this-or-that’ thing.

  • Ktrueheart

    Misplaced priorities …

  • Anonymous

    From B Brew (reporter Reutter here): I made a goof. Carolyn Wainwright, president of the Rec and Parks Advisory Board, confirms that the attendees of the Oct. 26 Parks meeting were representatives of the Canton Dog Park, not the Patterson Park Dog Park. But for the record: the groups have the same objective – expanding dog parks and seeking city funding for improvements.

  • Raull Duke


    This appears to be a very complicated issue, dog parks. I
    have a dog and I always take my dog to the park on a leash (since it is the law
    and I want my dog and others to be safe) and we have fun and meet plenty of people in the
    park. I of course am usually the only one with my dog on a leash, which is a
    bit unnerving.

    It seems in a city with limited resources and green-spaces,
    our city leaders, should strategically prioritize the use of both. One would
    hope to use such resources to accommodate the greater community and not one
    special interest group. A public park is for the general public and dogs, with
    their owners, are allowed and welcomed in parks whenever the parks are open, of
    course on a leash.

    The “finding” of
    funds to build a dedicated dog park in Patterson Park (when the Canton Dog Park
    is down the street), seems confusing as the Mayor proposes to close much needed
    recreational centers in communities of west Baltimore where there is great need
    for such facilities and their programs – recreational centers that accommodate
    many people of diverse ages, ethnicities, needs and socio-economic backgrounds.

    I would never place my dog’s needs above those of my
    community, especially as that is my responsibility for having a dog and I don’t
    expect the Mayor to do that either. I wonder who will manage this dog park and
    assure it is safe and clean? Will this dog park reduce the number of dogs off
    leash in Patterson Park? Doubt it.

  • Anonymous

    Baltimore has an antiquated factory row housing that probably needs to be recycled as well as abandoned historic masonry stock that needs all new mechanical, electrical, plumbing, windows and doors. With the tax base declining and with unequal rates between City and County one wonders what it will take for people to want to invest in Baltimore and rebuild the tax base that will allow for funding of things like Rec Centers and the like.

    With that said it does seem like people’s needs should take priority over that of pets as presented in e article.

  • Chief

    comparing yearly operating cost with one time construction is apples and oranges.  How much to build a new rec center?  Not much of one for $200k.

  • Simmjen

    I cannot believe that budgeted funds from the city’s recreation and parks department were allocated to build a dog park (or parks, it seems). 
    Some have complained that this article was poorly reported, that these issues are not linked and are certainly not a “this-for-that” scenario. I disagree. This story is a microcosm (a monthly meeting of the Recreation and Parks Advisory Board in which concerned citizens showed support for a neighborhood rec center in West Baltimore and a dog park in Canton) of many of the problems that our city leadership mishandles and mismanages. 
    We are spending $180,000+ of taxpayer money on pets. Actually, no, on unnecessary astroturf and water features for pets (in a gorgeous park where they can happily run around now, as long as they’re leashed).

    I would love to brag about city initiatives, especially those funded from recreation and parks, that worked to fight some of our city’s biggest problems: violence, crime, heart disease, diabetes, failing students. Rec centers can help reduce all of these. 
    Fancy pens where people go to stand or sit while their dogs run around because they are too lazy/busy/tired to walk or run their dog on a leash do not. 

    Great- more money going to programs that enable us to just sit there watching and doing nothing. I’d rather they use the $180,000 to give rescue dogs to people who don’t have pets- it would at least get more people outside and walking!

    And why did they sacrifice two tennis courts? Why is it this city is so anxious to fix things that aren’t broken?

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