A new idea for a path to a JP dog park

July 13, 2018
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Jamaica Plain dog owners are still searching for ways to establish an off-leash dog park in the neighborhood, and the most recent idea is to apply for Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to pay for it.

The CPA is a state law that was adopted in Boston by public referendum in the November 2016 election. By adopting the CPA, the City has created a Community Preservation Fund. The City finances this fund by a property tax-based surcharge on residential and business property tax bills, which began in July 2017. The City will use this revenue to fund open space and recreation, as well as affordable housing and historic preservation.

Max Glikman, a JP dog owner and member of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC), proposed his idea of using CPA funds to the Jamaica Plain Facebook group. He sees the potential award of CPA funds as a catalyst to making the dog park happen.

Though the idea of attaining CPA funds for a dog park may be exciting, Glikman foresees some obstacles that may need to be overcome for the park to come to fruition, including land control, zoning, and neighbor opposition. Glikman thinks that it would be easier to execute a purchase agreement with a private owner rather than with a public entity like the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, but also said that it might be a more costly option, and there aren’t many empty lots left in JP.

“Going through the public process might be cheaper as DCR might not want cash for their land, but it would also be much more time intensive and might not lead in any different direction that the efforts that have already been stalled,” Glikman said. He also said that while having DCR as a partner would be helpful, he’s not fully sure if DCR wants the responsibility of creating and maintaining a dog park.

The next obstacles that Glikman mentioned would be zoning and neighbor opposition.

“Given neighbor opposition from Beecher Street, this will definitely be a challenge,” Glikman said. “However, I do believe this park would be different than the Beecher Street case, mostly because we could try to find a lot that isn’t near many neighbors.”

In the past, it has been neighbor opposition that shut down other unofficial dog parks and dog park proposals, including the unofficial dog park at Beecher Street, which closed to unleashed dogs in summer 2016, and the DCR proposal to use the hockey rink on the Southwest Corridor near Anson St. To combat this, Glikman said it would be important to find a location in which there aren’t many neighbors.

“Community process would play a big role here,” Glikman said. “I wouldn’t want to be stepping on anybody’s toes, especially using a public resource like CPA. That being said, if we had a good showing of people who support the project at any community forum or neighborhood discussion, that would really help our chances.”

Glikman said that a strategy of making the project feasible could be to establish a nonprofit “Friends of” organization that would end up owning the land, in order for the land to be used for a public purpose. Part of his vision is for part of the money raised through CPA would go to contract for poop removal services, lawn maintenance, and insurance.

“These would be real expenses that might need additional CPA funding in the future, depending on how much initial funding we get awarded,” Glikman said.

But it might not be possible to use CPA funding for the maintenance that Glikman imagines.

Christine Poff, community preservation director for the City of Boston, said that it is “absolutely possible” to use CPA funds for a dog park, but that they could only cover design and construction costs. CPA funds are not eligible to be used for maintenance or community processes, so residents interested in getting CPA funding for a dog park would need to undergo the community process to make sure there is not a significant amount of opposition to their proposal before applying for the funds.

“We’d love to fund a dog park project because we’re interested in showing all the ways CPA funds can be used,” Poff said.

Funds are eligible for public or private entities, which can be either for-profit or non-profit, as long as they follow CPA guidelines in the application.

“We are trying to work with community members to link them up with resources they need to bring a project to fruition,” Poff said.

According to Poff, the biggest challenge to dog park advocates will be identifying a space, building a lot of community support for that proposal, and making sure that there’s not a lot of opposition. Only after all of that can CPA funds be applied for.

“CPA is just for the money to build it,” Poff said. “That’s the easy part; its a simple application. All the stuff that happens beforehand is the challenge.”

“The CPA Committee seems like they want applicants to have projects that are mostly ready to go,” Glikman said. “In their last round, also their first “Pilot” round, the CPA Committee was looking for shovel-ready projects. While I don’t think that in subsequent rounds shovel-readiness will be a threshold, being so would definitely increase the chances of getting an award.”

Boston’s CPA has finished its pilot round of funding, and awards were announced in early June this year. The City Council voted in late June to approve those projects.

Even though CPA funds cannot be used for maintenance, Poff said that the application requires a maintenance plan, and that she hopes that someday in the future the CPA law can be amended to include maintenance as part of the eligible uses for funding.

Glikman says that while he isn’t yet connected with any dog park advocacy groups, he plans on connecting with Eva Kaniasty, a dog park advocate who launched a petition with about 500 signatures in support of a dog park in Jamaica Plain. He hasn’t yet brought his idea up to the JPNC or the Zoning Committee, so is not sure what their thoughts are on his idea. Glikman is also part of the Housing Technical Assistance Group (TAG) for the CPA.

If a neighborhood group is interested in exploring CPA funding for the use of a dog park or something else, CPA staff are available to walk community members through the application process, meet with them to help with what’s needed, and connect them to other resources. Learn more at https://www.boston.gov/community-preservation.

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