By Jaime Craven
The ad hoc Dog Park Task Force has extended the deadline for responses to their public survey to Tuesday, October 10. The survey asks how dog owners expect to use the park based on previous experience, as well as what features to prioritize in the upcoming design. In particular, Task Force members are concerned with possible objections from abutters to the current potential sites. They are considering features such as a sound-dampening fence to minimize any misgivings from the neighborhood.
Though the Task Force has yet to select a single site for planning and construction, they have narrowed their options down to three: Railroad Avenue, Springs Brook Park, and across the bike path, at the end of Lavender Lane.
The favorite for several members, including Chairman Laurie Walsh, is Railroad Ave, which sits across the street from the Middle School’s front parking lot. Admittedly, it is something of a “Hail Mary,” in Walsh’s words. Unlike the other sites on the list, which are all located on the Town-owned property, Railroad Ave is the property of the school system, meaning that the School Committee must agree to hand ownership to the Town before construction can begin. This item is on the agenda for the School Committee meeting on October 10.
Other members of the Task Force prefer Springs Brook Park, which is actually four sites being treated as one for discussion’s sake. The Task Force held an off-site meeting on September 28 to evaluate these sites in person and gathered again to discuss their observations on October 4. They plan to vote on the site at their next meeting on October 11. This provides time to gather yet more input from the community and to determine whether certain sites are officially classified as wetlands.
Members concluded that these sites are not only some of the largest options on the list but the farthest from residential abutters as well. On the flip side, there is a high number of tall, mature trees in at least two of the sites, and clearing them runs the risk of driving up the budget. The Task Force’s plan is to apply for the Stanton Foundation grant, which funds 100% of the design and 90% of the construction for Massachusetts dog parks up to about $225,000. “No matter what site we pick, we’re still applying for the grant,” said Walsh. “And if there’s something the grant doesn’t like, then we have to go back to the table.”
In the weeks leading up to November 6, the Task Force aims to eliminate all but one potential site to present at the Special Town Meeting, and to keep one as a potential backup. As such, discussion of the pros and cons of each have dominated much of their discussion every week. “There are no abutters because we don’t technically have a site yet,” Walsh said. In the interest of keeping people in the loop, she invited concerned neighbors to come to Town Hall “every day!”
Then, catching herself: “Well, not every day, but every meeting.”