What began as a few canine owners seeking improvements at the local dog park is now a formally sanctioned group, serving as the official voice representing park users.
At its March 13 board meeting, Mary Bradford, director of the Montgomery County Department of Parks, recognized the Friends of the Olney Manor Dog Park as the official sanctioned partner of the dog park at Olney Manor Recreational Park.
Bob Nordstrom, current president of the Friends group, accepted the letter of recognition from Bradford. Jan Ring, former president and current vice president of the organization, also was recognized and credited for working out the details of the arrangement.
Hench said although other friends groups in the county represent other facilities, including Brookside Gardens and the Agricultural History Farm Park, this is the first officially sanctioned group for a county dog park.
Hench said the group is a liaison between the dog park community and the park manager.
“It’s great because they are up there every day and can improve the sense of community and well-being of the users on a daily basis,” she said. “It’s really invaluable to us.”
The Olney Manor Dog Park opened December 2009 and was funded by the State Highway Administration as an Intercounty Connector mitigation project, at a cost of $ 135,000.
Hench said because the facility was put in as a mitigation project, it was created with little planning.
“I think there were people asking why Cabin John’s dog park is like it is and why Olney’s dog park is like it is,” she said. “That led to a group that formed and contacted the park manager to ask for some improvements.”
Hench said they are looking into improvements for the Olney Manor Dog Park, such as running water, a pavilion and structures for the dogs to play on. She said the group will help decide and prioritize those items and also could help with fundraising through the Montgomery County Parks Foundation.
Nordstrom said the group is not trying to make the Olney Manor dog park better than the others, but instead is looking for parity. They are not opposed to hands-on work, either — group members show up each May with shovels and wheelbarrows to spread a new layer of mulch at the park.
The Friends of the Olney Dog Park board meets a minimum of four times each year. All meetings are open to the public and are announced on the group’s website at groups.yahoo.com/group/olneymanordogpark/.
All users of the dog park are encouraged to attend the annual meeting at 7 p.m. April 22 at the Olney Indoor Swim Center.
“That will be a time for all dog owners to come hear what is going on, to share their ideas and for us to solicit new board members,” Nordstrom said. “This year, all six board members are large-dog owners, so we are going to target some small-dog owners to get involved.”
Nordstrom said while usage of the dog park is seasonal, there are many regulars who show up daily. On a recent weekend, he counted about 45 dogs; new faces accompanied many of them.
The surge might be in part due to a decision earlier this year by Montgomery Parks to discontinue the annual $ 40 permit fee for the use of county dog parks.
The fee program was initiated in July 2010 to compensate for budget cuts. However, after noticing a decline in use of the facilities, the department opted to do away with the fee and is exploring other ways to make up the lost revenue.
The 1-acre Olney Manor Dog Park is open normal park hours, from sunrise to sunset. It has separate areas for small and large dogs.
Other county-owned fenced dog parks are in Black Hill Regional Park, Cabin John Regional Park, Ridge Road Recreational Park and Wheaton Regional Park.
Planning is currently under way to identify a site for a new dog park in Silver Spring. For more information on that project, go to www.montgomeryparks.org/PPSD/ParkPlanning/Projects/site_selections/dog.park_silver.spring.shtm