By Debra Parkhurst
A small group of enthusiastic residents came before the Selectmen on Monday, April 3 to propose a Dog Park in Bedford. Dog parks provide outdoor space for dogs and dog owners to gather, socialize, and exercise with the dogs “off-leash.” Lauren Walsh, Bedford resident and owner of Fetchit, located on The Great Road, learned last fall that The Stanton Foundation provides a series of grants to support the design, park construction, and capital improvements for dog parks in Massachusetts. The foundation can provide 100% of the design and up to 90% of the construction costs. In addition, there are capital improvement grants following the year or two after the opening of a dog park. Walsh said the towns of Billerica and Wilmington are moving forward with dog parks.
With the assistance of DPW staff, Walsh developed a list of potential sites for the park. The sites include:
- 350A Concord Road (end of Lavender Lane)
- Hartwell Treatment Plant (211-223 Hartwell Road)
- Middle School (99 McMahon, area of trees near fields)
- High School (Mudge Way, area between tennis courts and Wilson Field)
- South Road fields (375-379 South Road)
- Springs Brook Park
Walsh also developed a list of criteria in order to weigh the sites. Criteria include central location, parking availability, water service availability, existing open space, proximity to abutters, environmental impacts, and grading. She briefly reviewed some of the various pros and cons of the sites with the Selectmen.
Dexter Lawson, an enthusiastic resident and dog owner, said he has been to several dog parks in the area, and pointed to Thorndike Park in Arlington as a model dog park. Thorndike Park is close to homes, soccer fields, Minuteman Commuter Bike Trail, and does not have a large amount of parking; yet it provides a great sense of community, he said.
On a lighter note, as opined by one participant, the real problem with placing a dog park next to a baseball field is, “If the ball goes into a dog park, it is tough getting the ball back.”
Walsh added that the park only has to be 10,000 to 15,000 square feet. Tree removal is not necessary; in fact, trees provide much-needed shade for people and pets. Dog parks can have different types of surfaces and amenities, as Walsh showed in a series of slides.
Selectman Carolyn Fedele recognized the great interest and intent, but had concerns with anything near the schools, although she agreed it is a good idea to have a dog park centrally located. Different areas will present different obstacles.
Walsh told the Selectmen that their group has the local interest and the “human capital to get behind this,” and requested that the town give them “guidance to zero in on a site.” Without a site, they cannot move forward.
Chairman Margot Fleischman said they understood the urgency for using these grants, but it is important for the town to sort out the operational issues, spend time looking at the various options, and understand if there are any impediments to various sites. The Town will look at the sites provided by Ms. Walsh and will review again at a future meeting.