A meeting of the minds occurred on Tuesday between dog owners, park advocates and city officials, giving life to the long-discussed idea of a North End dog park.
The Parks and Open Spaces Committee of the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) hosted an open discussion on dogs in neighborhood parks on July 11, 2012 at the Nazzaro Community Center. Co-hosted by NEWRA’s Anne M. Pistorio and David Kubiak, the committee invited Boston Parks and Recreation Commissioner, Antonia Pollak along with Public Works’ Frank O’Brien and Nicole Leo from the Mayor’s Office.
Contributing to the meeting were several members of the new neighborhood dog owners group, RUFF – Responsible Urbanites for Fido. In existence for only one month, RUFF already has 36 members and established divisions in the neighborhood. Each division has an ambassador dedicated to communicating and advocating for dog owners in that area. RUFF wants to be known as a group of responsible dog owners.
Commissioner Pollak introduced the subject by recognizing the increased numbers of dogs in downtown Boston as a result of the shift from rental apartments to dog-friendly condominiums. NEWRA Parks Committee members expressed their concerns with the increasing toll that dogs are taking on area parks and open spaces.
“Dogs are having a huge impact on parks in the city. Urine kills turf and not everyone is conscientious about picking up,” said Pollak who is a dog owner herself. She continued, “The city is trying to find places for kids to play and dogs to get recreation.”
The discussion quickly focused on the creation of at least one dog park in the North End / Waterfront community. Commissioner Pollak said the city is looking to work with organized groups of residents and abutters.
“We are seeing them sprout up all over the city,” she noted. Some of the more notable dog parks include Peter’s Park in the South End, and others in Dorchester, South Boston and the Southwest Corridor. Dog parks can be located on public (State or City) or private land, including in existing parks.
Besides open space, dog parks need drainage, water access and some fencing. To date, funding has come from mitigation associated with new development projects or through a combination of public and private partnerships. Commissioner Pollak said she would help the group coordinate with other public officials or the Boston Redevelopment Authority.
Many neighborhoods have unofficial dog parks already, such as Charlestown where 2 unleashed areas exist. The North End also has an unofficial, gated dog area near the tunnel on Richmond Street. Attendees generally believed that area was not adequate and abutters have also not been pleased with the situation. Pollak also noted that the unleashed area in Boston Common has not succeeded as of yet. After several community groups avoided getting involved, the Friends of the Public Garden have now taken on the task of dealing with dogs there.
Dog parks take the strain off other neighborhood parks, noted Pollak. David Kubiak said he would favor “protections” for other parks if a new dog park is created. A repeated comment supporting a dog park from the RUFF group was “give us a place to go as an alternative.” The Commissioner has also observed that a dog park can be a community builder where people get together and incorporate a social component.
Various locations for dog parks were mentioned at the meeting with many attendees favoring multiple smaller areas, closer to more residents, rather than one large space. Please tell us where you would support a new dog park in the attached poll and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.