By Kate Anslinger
There was no shortage of comments shared at Tuesday night’s dog park meeting, as community members came out to hear about the proposed Belle Isle Marsh Reservation location. It was also a chance for residents to express their concerns.
Out of the 13 sites that were investigated as possible dog park locations, Belle Isle Marsh Reservation was deemed the most favorable based on several factors including access to parking, accessibility to all local residents, support of neighbors and dog owners, amenities such as water and lighting and a low level of disruption.
If chosen, the location would be able to provide an off-leash dog park without major disruption or an astronomical expense. The park would be complete with separate spaces for both large and small dogs, a double gate entry to prevent dogs from escaping while entering and exiting, appropriate fencing, trash receptacles, water dispensing and recreation apparatus.
One of the major concerns was the possible growth of traffic and lack of parking, however; there is hope that people will eventually park on Morton Street and exit the marsh from that side. When construction of the Belle Isle Marsh Marine Ecology Park and Walkway is complete, owners will be able to walk their dogs on leash on the newly designed trails prior to reaching the dog park where they can take their dogs off-leash.
Oversight of the park as well as designating specific open hours are some of the things that the sub-committee still needs to solidify however; one resident made a point about using extended hours as a form of security for the town.
“Because the area right outside of the Belle Isle Marsh Reservation is extremely dark it can be a scary place at night,” said Scott McGovern, who has a background in security. “I think it should be open 24 hours because it provides protection that the area needs. Knowing that people are there at night would curtail evening activity. Dogs provide security for the whole town.”
Another suggestion was to ensure that the grass gets maintained in order to prevent ticks from getting any more abundant than they already are in that area.
Because the location is categorized as an area of critical and environmental concern (ACEC), the DCR and the town requested that a review be conducted by the Massachusetts Audubon Society regarding the impact of birds in the area in March 2017. At the end of April, a written report came back stating that a dog park would not impact the birds or cause a disruption. They believe this to be the case because dog owners are already walking their pets both on and off leash in the area and keeping the pets in a confined section will reduce any disruption.
“There is a growing need for an off-leash dog park,” said DCR Acting Chief, Patrice Kish, as she shared some speculation about why the site was chosen. “This is a decision we take seriously and there is a lot of thoughtful consideration that goes into it.”
Private dog groups have worked together to raise thousands of dollars for the park, which will offer an opportunity for dogs and people to socialize in a safe environment. Currently the town of Winthrop is home to nearly 1200 dogs.
The DCR will assess community support for this site and make a decision by fall 2017.
Written comments will be taken until August 15th and can be submitted to:
[email protected] or on the website: http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/public-outreach/submit-public -comments