On Friday morning, Mars Incorporated announced a $20,000 grant to the Southwest Business Improvement District (SWBID) and Humane Rescue Alliance to help make Southwest D.C. a better city for pets and people living in the neighborhood.
Announced in partnership with the SWBID during the National Cherry Blossom Festival, where Mars serves as a Host Sponsor, the grant builds on Mars’ 2018 Grant from the Mayor’s Office of the Clean Cities and is an extension of the company’s Better Cities for Pets program.
“We’re excited about the change we can enact with the help of this grant,” said Lexie Albe, Deputy Executive Director at the Southwest Business Improvement District. “We’re always looking for ways to make life just a little bit happier for residents of Southwest D.C., including pets and people.”
Funds will go towards giving the Southwest area a pet-friendly makeover by adding hands-free seating, portable hydration, expanded waste stations, shaded areas, educational materials and signage. All of these features are intended to cultivate a more pet-friendly environment for the human and pet residents of Southwest DC.
At the event, Mars Policy Director Kelly Horton said that one of the goals of the company was to intergenerationally and help communities and families get where they need to be in ten or twenty years. “We know pets help cities like DC prosper,” she added. “As an area resident myself, it’s great to see Mars committing to helping the community grow – and this grant will help do just that.”
Residents Raise the Issue
Horton said Mars had met residents at the 2018 Cherry Blossom Festival who noted the impact of new pets on the community. “They explained that there was a lot of tension in the neighborhood as new people came in with pets, and were maybe not making the full effort to collect waste,” she said in an interview after the event. “Given the existing partnership with Cherry Blossom Fest, expanding improvements to the Southwest neighborhood makes sense.”
Horton said that the partnership was facilitated by Southwest resident and 27-year National Cherry Blossom Board Member Barbara Ehrlich. Describing Ehrlich as a “Southwest Super Citizen,” Festival President Diana Mayhew said that Ehrlich connected the festival with the community, and in the process helped connect festival sponsors Mars to the SWBID.
Ehrlich said that when she saw the pet amenities provided by Mars at last year’s Cherry Blossom Festival, she thought of the Southwest community.
“They are really great, because we have so many pet owners here, and our green spaces are being used in ways they were never used before,” Ehrlich said of the amenities. She said that twenty years ago, it was hard to find an apartment building that allowed residents to have pets. “Now, buildings allow pets, but they don’t all do anything about their needs,” Ehrlich said. She said that when she heard of the granting opportunity, she knew the SWBID would be a great candidate. “They have their eyes on the property,” she said, “and with more funding and more interest, they’ll come up with more ways to work with the community on this issue.”
Multiple Reasons to Care
Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6D Chairperson Gail Fast said there are multiple reasons to be concerned with pet waste in the area. Part of that is to save the river, because runoff into the Anacostia River is a major source of pollution,” she said. “We also have a lot of green space and we want to preserve and enhance those spaces in Southwest, and ensure that kids can enjoy them safely.” Fast added that the ANC had been working to ensure that buildings erected in the Buzzard Point area have pet relief stations within their confines, whether in parking garages or on rooftops, to ensure that people appropriately meet their pet relief needs.
The amenities will complement the area amenities provided at the Lansburgh Dog Park (95 M St. SW) and through partnership with the Mayor’s Office of the Clean City. Director Julie Lawson said that the partnership with SWBID would enhance the relationships that office has built with local businesses, many of whom help facilitate education to pet owners. “We’re looking forward to making sure everyone hears the message: that picking up # 2 makes you #1,” she told the audience to laughter.
SWBID is conducting a survey of existing amenities and will be doing community outreach at the Farmers’ Market and Petalpalooza to understand where there is a need for the amenities afforded through the grant. The program will be made available in Summer 2019.