Bridget Gonzales Young approached the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission about building a dog park in Southwest last year. Now, with unofficial co-chairs Gwyn Jones and Jessica Seepersaf, she leads a group of dog owners devoted to finding a park for their pets.
“Many of us have to drive to other parts of the city or over to the Shirlington dog park to give our dogs the opportunity to exercise and socialize off-leash,” Gonzales Young said. “With that exodus goes our dollars. We shouldn’t have to leave our neighborhood, which we love.”
Gonzales Young and other Paws of Southwest members worked tirelessly to round up as much support as possible before filing a formal dog park application to the DC Department of Parks and Recreation in April. The group chose Lansburgh Park, an underutilized space in the Southwest quadrant.
“Only in the past year, because of our efforts and the efforts of another Southwest group that is trying to get a community garden started, has there been additional momentum to reclaim Lansburgh Park,” Gonzales Young said.
Co-chair Gwyn Jones said the group’s goal is not only to create a dog park but also to bring life back to Lansburgh Park. She also thinks it’s important to recognize the growing number of dogs in the city.
“Dogs are becoming a bigger and bigger part of this community,” she said. “We feel like we’re building a sense of community through responsible dog ownership. We know that not everybody is a dog person, but we also recognize that raising awareness and educating people about dogs can add a new dimension to the community.”
If the application is approved, the group will need to work with a council member to advocate for a budget to finance dog park construction.
“There really is a need for fundraising,” Jones said. “We would like to see this project move as quickly as possible. Realistically, we won’t see anything before 2013 but folks need to realize, ‘…this is something that we feel residents in Southwest really deserve.’”
On Tap is cohosting the Running of the Chihuahuas on Cinco de Mayo with Pacifico and Cantina Marina to help raise money for the dog park. The race is open to all Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes. $20 to enter their pups and all proceeds will be donated to Paws of Southwest (see pg. 28).
“The timing couldn’t have been more perfect,” Jones said about the race. “We’re really excited about it.”
For Jones, it all boils down to promoting a dog-friendly community.
“We really just want to have a safe place for our dogs to play.”
Learn more about Paws of Southwest at www.facebook.com/PawsSWDC.