Compiled by The Bedford Citizen
Editor’s Note: Bedford residents submitted a letter to the Selectmen on December 4, 2017 about the dog park project. The issues raised were not simply about whether or not there should be a dog park in Bedford. The concerns were about the process, the impacts on people, the environment, the use of public land, operational plans, sustainability and short- and long-term costs to taxpayers and the Town. The hope is for respectful and open dialogue.
The residents expressed appreciation for Selectmen Caroline Fedele and Ed Pierce, representatives of the ad hoc Dog Park Task Force for their time in working to address the concerns, and ensuring a transparent process. The residents also appreciated the Bedford Selectmen’s consideration of the broad impacts of this project, and their investment in supporting all residents’ concerns.
The residents wrote:
As the dog park project is still in an exploratory stage, residents asked the Bedford Selectmen for their support to eliminate any potential dog park site that abuts a home, and/or is met with an abutters’ objection due to the concerns for their personal property or quality of life. They do not believe it is fair to expect that any homeowner or family would have to absorb the negative consequences of this optional dog park amenity that would benefit a relatively select group of people in Bedford, and would be open to the general public.
They included a list of 13 questions and issues:
Identification of a dog park site that does not have a negative impact on any families or households in Bedford. Does Bedford have any sites that do not abut residential properties? If so, have those sites been vetted? Will the Town move forward with a Letter of Assurance to seek Stanton Foundation funding before a viable site is selected? It seems premature to leverage funding when a viable site has not been identified.
What land development opportunities we forfeit if we allocate land for “no less than 99 years” to a dog park, which is a stipulation of Stanton Foundation funding? For example, what else could our town need that might be as important as an amenity of a dog park, such as an expansion of playing fields or more open, unrestricted recreational space? Selectman Fedele shared that the MOU does not prohibit the Town to take back the land in the future; however, signing this MOU seems like it could leave the Town vulnerable to a future lawsuit if the Town decided to take back the land and dog park users wanted to challenge it.
Short and long-term costs to the Town of Bedford in terms of actual funding required and ongoing resources that will be needed to sustain a dog park. What costs to the Town are not covered by the Stanton grant? How much will it cost to maintain it for 99 years, including water, electricity, sanitation, animal control officers, public safety, liability insurance, and grounds and facility maintenance costs? How will it affect traffic and congestion?
Will the Town accept long-term responsibility and costs to manage the operations, enforce the rules, raise ongoing operational funds, and troubleshoot the problems typically associated with any dog park? From a review of other dog parks in surrounding towns, the following needs are cited: ongoing maintenance, including periodic restoration of the lawn areas, irrigation, hosing down dog urine, picking up feces and dealing with trash; regular communication with users about rules and park usage; ongoing fundraising efforts; and volunteer networks and leadership. If not the Town, who is prepared to take on these long-term responsibilities?
Environmental impacts. How will a dog park impact the adjacent wetlands, riverbeds, and wildlife, managing run-off, removal of trees and drainage? How much will it cost to assess the environmental impacts?
Property values. Specifically, what are the negative implications for potential abutters in Bedford? Has this been analyzed? If so, what does the data show? If abutters want to sell their homes in the future, how will a dog park impact the pool of interested buyers?
Public safety. Who will monitor the dog park? How much will the existence of a new public park – open to anyone – increase the need for police calls and other emergencies? It is our understanding that the Bedford Animal Control Officer works 30% of the time in Bedford, and 70% of the time in Lexington. Who will manage concerns when the Officer is not available?
Noise, odor and light pollution. How will the real and daily nuisances be addressed, especially if a site should be chosen that is in close proximity to homes? Some work from home as well; so, these quality of life variables are major concerns.
Traffic and parking concerns. What are these impacts? How will they be addressed?
Sanitation and waste management. What will this cost? How will it be managed? A review of other dog parks in the area shows that they routinely close because of the need for regular cleaning. Will this responsibility be absorbed by the DPW? Are they staffed for this additional task?
Enforcement of dog licenses and rabies shots. How will this be monitored? What will happen if there are violations?
Safety of children and adults. How will aggressive dogs and potential conflicts among dog park users be addressed? If a dog park is in close proximity to children’s ball fields, the potential risks seem increased. If a dog park is located in a more isolated area, what safety concerns could this raise for children who live or play nearby? We wonder about teenagers and strangers who may be drawn to the area to hang out at night, especially as we heard that lighting is part of the vision for this park.
An impartial analysis and determination of need. Aside from this being a nice amenity that some people would like, is a dog park a high priority for our small town? With so many other towns building dog parks nearby, the miles of existing open trails in Bedford and our current leash law, is our town truly in need of this project? What other programs and projects will the Town forego in order to develop and finance a dog park?
The residents noted that it has been upsetting to many that a vote at the Special Town Meeting was called to allocate preliminary CPC funds for a project without a budget, without a long-term sustainability plan, without notification of abutters of the recommended site, and without answers to many questions about impacts.
The residents who signed the letter included Suzanne Bruhn, Bea Brunkhorst, Judi Curcio, Diana Finer, Michael Kane, Kelly Giusti (dog owner), Laurie Hollingworth, Susan Lincoln (dog owner), Amita Malik, Jacqueline Martin, Anthony and Regina Melfi, Tina Nappi (dog owner), Sally Neal (dog owner), Emily J. Mitchell (dog owner), Lariza Panagiotou (dog owner), Jennifer Puhle, Kerry and Scott Rackey, Margaret Siciliano, Raman Singh, David Southard (dog owner), Michael and Katherine Tecci, and Saj Usman.