When I was a young girl growing up in the neighborhood, the Gassy (DeFillipo Park) as we called it, was a wonderful place to hang out. On any given day, dozens of kids could be found playing on one of the many structures, swinging on the swings or running around playing games of tag. The “Flights” as they were affectionately known, was the part of the playground where stairs took you to two different levels and out to the intersection of Hull and Snowhill Streets. It was an area of the playground that was used by teens and others to engage in activities that they wanted hidden from adults. Younger kids knew not to venture up and the older kids who were there always shooed them away if they tried. It was our neighborhood understanding.
As the North End changed, so did the Gassy. The Prince St. play area has been renovated and is still used daily by children and families. The biggest change has been to the Flights. What was one a haven for illicit escapades, it has now been replaced with one of the best dog parks in the city. Thanks to the vision of responsible dog owners, we now have a neighborhood dog association, RUFF. They have been instrumental in creating this confined, safe space where dogs can run off leash, play and socialize with other dogs.
As a new dog owner, this park has been our happy place. RUFF does an amazing job maintaining the grounds, hosting activities for dogs and their owners and most importantly, fostering and enforcing responsible dog ownership for North End residents.
On Wednesday afternoon, the dog park was filled with many dogs getting some much needed pre-travel exercise. It was to our dismay when suddenly, a neighborhood dad with a gaggle of kids just dismissed from the Eliot school, decided that he would “cut through” the park, entering from street entrance. He was stopped at the second gate and asked not to enter. Owners tried to explain to him that the dogs were off leash (as they could be) and that because he had young children with him, they did not feel it was a good idea. They were met with resistance, arrogance and entitlement. “This is a public park and I have the right to walk through it if I want.”
The fact of the matter is that, yes, he does have that right. There have been several times when kids have wandered up the stairs from the playground into the dog space and I told them they had to leave (it takes a village). There was also another time when a sweet couple walked up to the gate and asked if they could come in to sit and watch the dogs play. They were thinking of getting a dog. But why would anyone want to cut through a dog park with children in tow? There are several signs at the entrance that list the rules and one that clearly warns about the possibility of transmitted disease by dog waste. Not to mention the fact that by walking down Snowhill or Hull Streets, you can easily get to the playground level.
In the end, after some intense but polite verbal exchanges, dog owners stood their ground. The dad reluctantly turned himself and his tribe of kids around and walked back up the stairs and exited the park.
We live in a small neighborhood and must respect the rules of coexistence. It is not always easy. Not everyone follows the rules or agrees with them. For those of us who do, the expectation for others to do the same is not too much to ask.
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