This post was reprinted here with permission from the Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space blog, where Richard Layman writes about urban/commercial district revitalization and transportation/mobility issues in Washington, DC.
[Editor’s note: We dog people are always jawing about what a welcome contribution dogs, their people and dog parks make to a community. We’re preaching to the choir, so it’s nice to see a shout-out in disinterested quarters—in this case, Richard Layman’s blog on urban communities.]
Recently on a DC e-list concerning public education/K-12 school issues, there has been spirited discussion about “dog parks” in public spaces, which some see as a plot by whitey somehow—not stated directly but definitely seen as an unwelcome sign of neighborhood change, along with yoga studios (see "Breathing New Rhythm Into Tired Streets" from the Washington Post in 2006) and restaurants selling Tex-Mex cuisine.
I am not a dog person myself, but I am deeply appreciative of well-managed dog parks because in many urban neighborhoods, dog owners are some of the only regularly walking people in a community—many neighborhoods outside of the inner core of Washington are dominated by automobiles and there is relatively little positive pedestrian activity on often empty sidewalks.
Dog walkers contribute positive activity not just to streets and sidewalks but to parks. It’s very easy for a park to devolve into a dangerous place. One technique for people committed to disorder to keep people (especially families and children generally) out of parks is to break a lot of bottles—broken glass keeps a park free of children, making it easier to conduct illicit business and activities.
Dog walkers help rebuild neighborhood groups committed to providing support and focus to neighborhood parks—parks that often are willfully or passively neglected by municipal governments overwhelmed by a variety of responsibilities, and lacking the resources to be able to provide regular maintenance and assistance and supervision.