DCR dog park proposals creating division

Following a long-awaited dog park meeting from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) earlier this month, residents are divided on which of the three proposals is the best one.

DCR held a public meeting on Aug. 2 to present the different proposals and obtain public opinion on a potential off-leash dog recreation area within Southwest Corridor Park. According to DCR, the sites considered were evaluated for size, characteristics, proximity to public transit, and impact on abutters of surrounding properties. The three dog park site proposals from DCR include Site A at Green Street and Oakdale/Lawndale Terrace, Site B opposite Evy Tea on Amory Street, and Site C at Stonybrook Station adjacent to Boston Legal Services. For more information about the different sites, visit bit.ly/2wfmHqf and view the presentation.

“During a public meeting on August 2, 2018, DCR presented and engaged with dog owners and stakeholders on potential off-leash dog recreation area locations within Southwest Corridor Park,” said DCR spokesperson Olivia Dorrance. “The Department appreciates the interest and participation in the project from Jamaica Plain residents and South West Corridor Park visitors and looks forward to continued positive dialogue regarding an off-leash dog recreation area.”

DCR stated that comments received at the Aug. 2 meeting were “largely positive, expressing appreciation for the agency’s efforts.”

Nina Robinson, JP resident and dog owner, attended the Aug. 2 meeting and thought it went well.

“I felt that those who were in attendance were grateful for the time DCR has taken to identify the three potential off leash areas and there was overwhelming support for what was termed “Site A” – the long strip along Oakdale that is already used as a de facto off-leash dog run by many dog owners in the area,” Robinson said. “Site A is also my personal preference. It is very large and could accommodate a good number of dogs of all sizes at any given time. I hope DCR approves this area for a new dog park in Jamaica Plain.”

Robinson said there is a community movement forming a “Friends of” group that would work in partnership with DCR to raise funds for the dog park and ensure that it is well maintained and used appropriately.

“Jamaica Plain is long overdue for a dog park,” Robinson said. “I am hopeful that the community will soon receive good news about moving forward with Site A so all those in favor of a dog park, dog owners and non-dog owners, can begin working together with DCR to create an enjoyable playground for our pups.”

Some residents disagreed with the notion that there is overwhelming support for Site A, and have collected over 50 signatures opposing the location. Steve Michener, dog owner and JP resident at Oakdale Terrace, could not attend the DCR meeting on Aug. 2, thinks that locations B and C would be the better locations.

“I think dog parks in the SW Corridor are a good idea as long as they are kept reasonably sized and do not block portions of park already used by multiple other users and use types,” Michener told the Gazette in an email. “Proposed Site A blocks an entire portion that is used by many different groups in JP, including dog walkers, joggers, children playing, toddlers watching trains, people looking for a calm grassy hillside to picnic or relax after work, cyclists. There is no reason for this parcel to be converted for the sole use of one group.”

Michener added that if multiple dog parks are dispersed along the Southwest Corridor, issues like excessive crowding and noise to abutters could be minimized.

“There are many portions of the SW Corridor that do not directly border residential areas,” he said. “Having smaller, more dispersed parks also provides dog parks to more of the population in Jamaica Plain and Roxbury and makes for easier access.”

Tracy O’Brien, JP resident and dog owner, agrees that there should be several parks dispersed.

“I think it is important for the DCR to develop a strategic plan that identifies several sites for potential dog parks, and locate them in two or three locations along the corridor in Roxbury and Jamaica Plain,” O’Brien said. “This way, several different neighborhoods will be served by access to a dog park, and it will take the burden off of any one site, which probably will attract use from a wide geographic area, including across JP, Roslindale, Roxbury and Hyde Park. Additionally, this planning process should assess existing uses of sites being considered, to ensure that other park users, or important park design elements are not being supplanted.”

O’Brien, like other residents, is opposed to Site A. O’Brien, Michener, and Weezy Waldstein prepared a petition for DCR that was signed by over 50 residents who are concerned about existing uses of the park being displaced if Site A is fenced in for a dog park. The petition reads:

We the undersigned, oppose the DCR proposal to locate a dog park along the linear area that runs along Oakdale Street, referenced in the DCR proposal as “Site A.” Although many of us are dog owners, and support the creation of a dog park, we do not feel that Site A is the optimal choice for the following reasons:

  • The proposal effectively interrupts and blocks off a significant section of the linear park that is heavily traveled by pedestrians, joggers, and families with children.
  • Site A is in direct proximity to the Johnson Playground, which includes several large recreational elements, including basketball courts, a tot lot, a spray pool and adjacent baseball field. At the other end of the proposed site is a heavily utilized skateboard park, as well as another tot lot, community garden and tennis courts. Fencing off this area disrupts the flow of people between these various recreational elements. Additionally, these uses already draw much foot and car traffic, as well as noise. A very large dog park does not mix well with the existing uses of the area.
  • Site A is directly adjacent to a residential neighborhood with a number of multifamily dwellings. It would have a significant impact on the quality of life for abutters, on issues such as noise, aesthetic appearance of fencing, use of the park for other activities, and traffic and parking.

“I very much understand and support the need for off-leash dog parks,” O’Brien said. “I simply feel that Site A is not suitable, as there is too much impact on existing uses of that stretch of parkland.”

Weezy Walstein, JP resident, dog owner, and third writer of the petition, supports having one or more dog parks, but does not think Site A is appropriate either because it has been proposed before and neighbors pointed out why it was not a good location each time.

O’Brien said that in previous years, 2010 and 2017, she and other neighbors discussed creating a dog park along the Oakdale site. O’Brien said that there was a community meeting to assess neighborhood support at that time, but there was a “resounding lack of support from the neighborhood,” and the proposal did not go forward to the design phase.

The public comment process for these dog park site proposals closed Aug. 23. O’Brien added that the comment period is “extremely short” and during a time when many families may be on vacation. For more information, visit bit.ly/2Kp1ajC.

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