The state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has decided not to convert a street hockey rink in the Southwest Corridor to a dog park as a result of community pushback, and will be considering proposals for new locations for a dog park in Jamaica Plain.
DCR held a public meeting on April 5 to present a proposal for the off-leash dog recreation area near Anson Street.
“This proposal, along with off-leash dog recreation areas that DCR has been exploring for establishment within DCR properties, was developed in recognition of the growing demand for the facilities,” wrote Leo Roy, commissioner of DCR, in a June 21 letter to the public.
The letter went on to say that the agency will not be pursuing the project due to the “strong element of opposition, particularly among abutters.”
“Currently, DCR is in the process of identifying alternative sites to provide the residents of Jamaica Plain with an off-leash area where dogs can roam, socialize, and benefit from exercise,” said Mark Steffen, spokesperson at DCR.
The DCR encourages members of the community to contribute to this search by emailing proposals, comments, or concerns to [email protected] or calling the community relations line at 617-626-4973.
Once the process has been completed, the agency will work with stakeholders to prepare a series of public meetings enabling residents to review and provide feedback on the proposed locations and plans, according to DCR.
Various elected officials and community members have been attempting to work with DCR and other organizations in the area to establish a dog park ever since the unofficial dog park at Beecher Street was forced to close last summer due to abutters’ concerns about noise and odors. Jamaica Plain City Councilor Matt O’Malley has been one of these dog park advocates.
“I remain a strong and ardent supporter of establishing a dog park in Jamaica Plain, but we need to make sure that other dog owners are willing to get involved in this process,” said O’Malley. “[The decision not to establish the Anson Street dog park] is disappointing, but I still maintain that there are other better locations somewhere along Southwest Corridor [Park] for a dog park. The April 5 meeting wasn’t as well attended as I would have liked, and it is my hope that more people are willing to come out and take ownership of this project. I think [the low turnout at the meeting] was part of the reason that DCR opted not to use this site, as well as abutter concerns.”
Jennifer Leonard of the Southwest Corridor Park Management Advisory Committee (PMAC) said she is still “hopeful” that the creation of a dog park has momentum.
“There are a number of other sites within the Southwest Corridor Park that could work and that would hopefully have a strong consensus of support,” she said. “I think it’s hard to say which sites yet, until the options have been vetted among neighbors. But I’m glad that DCR is sensitive to neighborhood concerns. There were concerns about the re-purposing of the hockey rink and of putting a dog park in that location.”
Eva Kaniasty, a resident who has been active in the process of establishing a dog park in the neighborhood, compiled several documents and a map with several potential dog park locations tagged. The suggestions for locations were proposed by many JP residents. Kaniasty has emailed a Google Doc and the tagged map with DCR, but said “nobody from DCR has ever responded to [her] communications.”
“I’ve honestly started to lose hope that anything will happen soon,” Kaniasty said. “I think that [Anson Street] dog park would have been a good first step, but it all hinges on when an alternative is proposed and moves forward.”
Kaniasty’s map of suggested dog park locations includes several locations in Franklin Park as well, which is not owned by DCR, but by the City.
“I think an off-leash area (or even multiple areas) in Franklin Park is a no-brainer, and could be piloted with very little up-front spending,” Kaniasty said. Kaniasty also said that Franklin Park Coalition has not been helpful so far in the mission to establish an off-leash dog area.
To view a resident-compiled map of suggested locations, visit https://maphub.net/evakay/jpdogparks.