JP Pets: Still no decision from DCR on dog park proposal

It has been over two months since state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) public comment period ended in response to a proposal for a dog park to be built in Jamaica Plain, and the state agency still has yet to release any sort of decision on the matter.

Responding to a resident demand for a dog park to be established in the neighborhood, DCR held a community meeting on April 5 to present a proposal to transform a street hockey rink into a dog park. The hockey rink is in the Southwest Corridor Park near Anson Street. DCR stated at the meeting that it believed that the street hockey rink wasn’t frequently being used, but that claim was contested at the meeting by residents who value the rink and did not support changing it into a dog park.

“I think the Anson Street proposal put forth by DCR was a poor one that was almost 100 percent likely to fail,” said Nina Robinson, a local dog owner, in an email to the Gazette. “Proposing to replace a children’s hockey rink with a dog park didn’t sit well with many, plus the space is way too small. Most people who desire an off leash space for their dogs have medium and larger sized dogs, so that space probably wouldn’t have worked for the majority of dogs and dog owners.”

Robinson was involved with an informal dog park on Beecher Street before the City shut it down last year.

Other residents at that meeting were happy that DCR was taking some action to meet the neighborhood’s need for a recreation area for dogs, and supported the proposal.

“I personally think any movement forward is a good thing, and I think Anson is not ideal, but could be a start,” said Eva Kaniasty, local dog owner. “I think that at minimum, there needs to be a pilot project to have formal off-leash areas in Franklin Park, as well as a dog park at the other end of Southwest Corridor. One tiny dog park is not going to meet everyone’s needs.”

Closing the meeting, DCR said that the public comment period would end on April 21, and that it would be in touch regarding any updates.

Priscilla Yang said in an email to the Gazette that she believed there were issues with the public comment period.

“Leading up to the deadline, the DCR website had the powerpoint available for download, but their public comment page did not list the meeting so you couldn’t upload comments,” Yang said.

According to DCR, during a routine update of the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)’s website, a comment section following the agency’s public meeting for a proposed off-leash dog area at the Southwest Corridor Park near Anson Street was mistakenly removed one day in advance of the public comment period’s closure. To provide the public additional time to submit comments, the DCR immediately re-opened the comment period through April 24, allowing for three additional days to submit comments, questions or concerns.

On June 15, DCR’s comment, as written by their press secretary Mark Steffen, was: “Currently, the DCR is completing its analysis of the public comment that was received, and the agency will reach out to community stakeholders in the coming weeks with Commissioner Roy’s decision.”

City Councilor Matt O’Malley has been supporting the project to find a dog park.

“As someone who is passionate about the wellness of animals in the City of Boston, having spearhead the puppy mill bill with the MSPCA, I will continue to push for a dog park in Jamaica Plain,” O’Malley said. “DCR has not made a decision yet in regard to the Anson Street location. However the best way our neighborhood can realistically have a dog park is to stay engaged and support the initiative either at this site or at another one. Dog parks create incredible benefits for a neighborhood, with not only enhancing public safety, but also promoting community, and Jamaica Plain should absolutely have one.”

Some residents interested in organizing a dog park have been frustrated with the lack of speed in the process to establish any sort of off-leash program in Jamaica Plain.

“The snail speed of movement on these types of initiatives is what’s most frustrating to me personally,” said Kaniasty. “My dog needs exercise today, not in 2 or 3 years. In the meantime, I do what other dog owners do – let my dog off leash in Franklin Park’s deserted areas, or drive to areas that are more dog friendly.”

“I realize they are juggling a lot of different things, but I can see where it’s frustrating to the community,” Yang said about DCR.

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