New dog park could come to JP

April 27, 2012
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Local advocates have teamed up with elected officials to create a city-run off-leash dog park accessible to Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, West Roxbury and Hyde Park.

Though the first suggested location—Millennium Park in West Roxbury—was rejected, City Councilor Matt O’Malley, the original proponent of the project, remains involved in what has become the Dog Park Association of Southwest Boston, Inc.

The group, led by West Roxbury resident Lisa Becker, meets regularly, Becker said, “to find an alternative spot where a doggy play area can be built.”

“We’re trying to identify spaces that make sense,” O’Malley said.

It is illegal to have dogs off-leash in public areas in the City of Boston. Fenced-in dog runs or parks are the exception to the rule.

Sanctioned off-leash dog areas are rare in Boston. There are only two such areas in the city: Carlton Court in the Southwest Corridor Park in the South End, run by the Department of Conservation and Recreation; and the pilot program for a fence-free area in the Common, run by the Boston Parks and Recreation Department.

A potential new space for a third park has been found, but Becker would not reveal its location, as no decisions have been yet finalized.

“We haven’t started major fund-raising because we haven’t gotten the OK to go after the spot we have our eye on,” Becker said. “I can’t tell you the spot because we haven’t gotten the go ahead from the agencies who control it… We can’t go public until everybody is on board.”

After securing the new location, the process will include getting neighbors’ approval—which will involve petitions and letter-writing—and organize a friends group for fund-raising. That is likely to be a big hurdle to clear because dog parks are not cheap.

“The [dog] park in the South End cost $250,000. I’m sure it can go way up from there, depending on the size and scope,” Becker said.

“I’d love to see [the dog park] happen in a year. It could be achievable,” O’Malley said. “I’m encouraged by the fact we’ve got such a great group of people taking charge of this…The group is committed to this and we’ll keep trying out best to make it happen.”

Other dog play spaces in JP are not city-sanctioned. The only fenced-in dog park in JP, on Beecher Street, is community-run.

Off-leash dog parks are usually fenced in and heavily mulched areas for dogs and their humans to socialize and play. In state Department of Conservation and Recreation parks, owners are required to leash their dogs with a lead no longer than seven feet. Failure to do so can lead to fines up to $50. City parks and other common areas are subject to similar rules.

The still-potential dog park already has an official website: dogparkboston.org.

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