By Richard Heath
Special to the Gazette
The state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) released three potential sites for an off-leash dog park at the Southwest Corridor Park during a meeting on Aug. 2, with a site near Green Street garnering the most support from attendees.
More than 50 residents packed the hall at Spontaneous Celebrations on a steaming August night to hear what they’ve been waiting over a year to hear—that potential dog park sites had been selected. The issue has been boiling since August 2016 when Boston Park Commissioner Chris Cook discontinued the ad-hoc off-leash dog park at the Beecher Street Park. Right after that, City Councilor Matt O’Malley wrote to DCR Commissioner Leo Roy suggesting he consider a site on the Southwest Corridor Park.
Roy personally chaired the Aug. 2 meeting.
“I care enough to be here personally to help our furry friends socialize,” he said. “I manage on your behalf over one-half million acres of land from Revere Beach to Mount Greylock. But our purpose tonight is to present our thoughts about an off leash dog park in your neighborhood.
“We’ve taken some walks around your neighborhood and got a sense of neighbors’ patterns of use.”
Roy introduced DCR Acting Planning Director Patrice Kish.
“There’s an on-going need for off leash dog areas across the state,” she said. “There is an increase of dog owners and they have an investment in the park. Dog parks create a safer park and the dogs learn to socialize.
“DCR took a look at a number of different sites and our consultants BETA Group Design made site visits.”
Kelly Carr of BETA Group outlined the three dog park sites. Site A is at Green Street and Oakdale/Lawndale Terrace that she described as a long and shady, sloping site. Site B is a triangular area opposite Evy Tea on Amory Street and Site C is at Stonybrook Station adjacent to Boston Legal Services.
Amanda Sloan of BETA Group explained how a dog park should be located and furnished.
“Urban dog parks are usually in overlooked spots,” she said. “It should have a double entry and an enclosure; a neutral space.”
Sloan described the various surface materials that are used in dog parks, the types of site furniture and signage and the various sorts of play equipment available for the pups in dog parks.
“Dog parks attract spectators,” she said. “People enjoy watching the dogs and signage is an introduction to the park.
“Information kiosks are at the gathering spaces for dog owners who sit and socialize and the dogs run together.”
Roy personally stood and called out speakers in order of the sign in sheet; Ruth Bennett was one of the first.
“I vote for Site A,” she said. “But in Brookline they use schoolyards as dog parks.” She questioned why Boston doesn’t do that and said it’s a good idea to pursue.
Another attendee agreed. A strong supporter of Site A, he also wondered why Boston could not have more dog parks like Brookline.
“But you guys seem pretty positive about this,” he told Roy and Kish. “I’m pleasantly surprised.”
One attendee, who was in favor of Site A, said he lives a few blocks away and was critical of the Southwest Corridor Park design.
“There are gardens, playgrounds, and basketball courts aplenty,” he said. “But not one single off-leash dog park. Oakdale Terrace is already used as a dog park.” Designed 38 years ago, the SWC Park opened in May, 1987.
John Dillon liked Site A too but got to the point.
“What kind of budget do you have for this?” he asked.
Roy replied, “There is no budget yet. We need to do more homework and talk with abutters.”
Weezy Waldstein of Lamartine Terrace asked to be taken out of turn; she was concerned that opposing views weren’t being heard. Roy asked Waldstein to wait her turn.
She was in favor of a dog park except not where she lives.
“I thought I was going to talk about being in favor,” she said when Roy called her name, “but I’m absolutely shocked that a brilliantly designed park will be blocked. You’re blocking the flow of people coming from the Johnson Playground. That flow through the SWC Park is critical. If you put it in all the kids of color can’t use it; it’s their hang out.
“Franklin Park is not as highly valued. Put it there. I’m in favor of that.”
Eva Kaniasty of Plainfield Street has long been a strong supporter of an off-leash dog park; in 2017 she got 500 signatures on a petition in support of a SWC Park location.
“Don’t be sidetracked,” she said. “This is after all Jamaica complain and you’ll hear a lot of that. I’ve done a lot of online organizing [for a dog park].We need a bigger space. Don’t be sidetracked with opposition to Site A.”
One attendee said his city is far behind.
“It is quite disappointing that the City of Boston is not taking care of its people,” he said. “Boston is not stepping up. It’s so far behind in its support for dogs and dog owners. There is so much pent-up demand.”
Max Glickman of Glenvale Terrace has been a strong supporter of a dog playground and he said he supported Site A.
“Let’s make this a real off-leash dog park,” he said. “I’m on the neighborhood council. We’d like to make this work and we’d be happy to help facilitate the discussion.”
Making note of the overwhelming support for Site A, Roy explained the next steps.
“We need to do more public outreach,” he said. “We are still going to study the alternatives.”
“The public comment period goes from Aug. 2 through Aug. 23. We will review and assess all the comments,” Kish said.
Standing up in the back one neighbor said to applause and laughter how satisfactory the meeting was for her.
“Thank you DCR for your dogged determination for a dog park.”
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