Is Kingman Field Going to the Dogs?

Hill Hounds Gains Support for Pet Park

Kingman Field is going to the dogs. At least, that’s what the advocacy group Hill Hounds would like to see. The Washington, D.C.- based organization has been voicing the concerns of animal lovers and their pets across the District for the past five years, and has set its sights on transforming underdeveloped locations in Kingman Field to a dog park.

Rebecca Hindsman, a representative of Hill Hounds and a Ward 6 resident, brought the organization’s year-in-the making petition before the ward’s Transportation and Public Space Committee at an Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting on April 21.

At the Capitol Hill Towers in Northeast, Hindsman laid the case as to why the park needed the facelift. “The dog park at Kingman Field would redevelop areas not used by athletics,” she said. “The land that we want for our dog park is not being used currently. We also think it would make the park more family friendly, as the principal of the local elementary school said that there have been a lot of vandalizations around this area lately. It could make things a lot safer for everybody. “

Located behind Options Charter School, bordered by 13th, 14th, D and E Streets Northeast, the current Kingman Field is composed of athletic fields. The park sits in a large neighborhood somewhat east of Capitol Hill, known predominantly as a quiet, residential enclave of mostly African-American families.

Attorney Nancy J. Kellner, the Hill Hound’s legal voice, said in a press release that the “the field has a large grassy area and an oddly shaped asphalt area behind the school and a nearby church. There are two sad-looking basketball hoops, rusting and broken fences, graffiti and untended grass. New condos flank one side of the field, and across alley-ways, there are older homes nearby.”

Hindsman also stressed that dog parks have been popping up all over D.C. (with the help of Hill Hounds and DC Dog) and would bring positive activity to the neighborhood. The D.C. area has six dog parks with locations at the Congressional Cemetery and Walter Pierce Park, according to Metropets Online (metropets.org).

“Dog parks are gaining in popularity,” according to Dogpark.com, a national Web site for dog lovers. “Those of us fortunate enough to live in a community where dog parks exist know that they are a wonderful way to exercise and socialize our dogs and ourselves. For many, it is a primary form of recreation.”

According to the signatures that Hill Hounds has collected from Ward 6 residents, Kingman Park is also home to dog lovers, lots and lots of dog lovers. “I would like to see more of a constructive usage of Kingman Field,” said Ward 6 resident Anne Grimes. “As a dog owner, I’ll have to say I’m biased and would prefer that usage to be a dog park.”

“It would be nice to look at,” said Michael Lowe, resident of Kingman Park for more than 10 years. “And it would just give the neighborhood a new look, a bit of freshness about it, you know?”

Hill Hounds collected more than 950 signatures supporting a dog park. “We only needed 100,” Hindsman said.Of the signatures, 142 came from homes bordering the park.

“There are a lot of dog owners in this neighborhood, myself included,” Hindsman said. “But there are no safe areas to exercise the dogs. It would in that case benefit both sides of community. It would keep dogs where dogs need to be and keep people where people need to be.”

The Transportation and Public Space committee unanimously voted to move the petition to the next level of the commission. Committee Chairman Omar Mahmoud said it was a “necessary petition, well thought out and researched.”

And, the organization has made friends in high places. ANC6A commissioners Bill Schultheiss and Mary Beatty are also friends of Kingman Park and Hill Hounds.

“I’ve been interested in rejuvenating Kingman for many years,” Schultheiss said previously. “We now have an outstanding group of energized, experienced people working hard to realize the dream of a Kingman Field that serves a broad range of community interests.”

Councilmember Tommy Wells, who represents Ward 6, also appears to be on board, stating on his Web site, “As a dog owner myself, I truly believe dogs are as much a part of our lives in the city as anything else. They get us outside walking and help to build closer communities with our neighbors.”

With the backing of Ward 6’s community leaders, Kingman Field should be barking place to be.