Nonotuck Park emerges as favorite site for Easthampton dog park

  • A map of the proposed dog park site in Nonotuck park, with stickers indicating people's preference for it is seen at a Thursday evening forum in the Eastworks building. STAFF PHOTO/Bera Dunau

Staff Writer
Published: 11/24/2019 11:00:17 PM

EASTHAMPTON — A Thursday evening forum on locations for a possible dog park showed heavy support for putting one in Nonotuck Park, potentially creating a dilemma for both planners and dog park advocates.

Earlier in the year, the Parks and Recreation Commission voted against putting a dog park in Nonotuck Park.

The forum, held in the Eastworks building, drew dozens of people and a good portion of the City Council. The forum offered a review of seven potential sites and gave those in attendance the chance to weigh in and ask questions about them.

City Planner Jeff Bagg and Jeffrey Squire of Berkshire Design Group, the firm that did an initial assessment of the sites, ran the meeting.

The dog park effort was kicked off by City Councilor Owen Zaret last year, after he learned about the Stanton Foundation’s grants for the design and construction of dog parks in Massachusetts. The grants can cover up to $25,000 and 100 percent of the cost of the design of a dog park, and up to $225,000 and 90 percent of the “hard” construction costs of a park.

At the conclusion of the forum, those in attendance were able to vote for their two preferred locations, which they did by affixing colored dots on the 155 Oliver St., Holyoke Street, Nonotuck Park, Park Street and Highland Avenue locations. The Oliver Street and Park Street locations each have two possible sites on them. The Oliver Street sites are near the solar field there.

An overwhelming number of votes were for the Nonotuck Park location, at 54. The Oliver Street location came in second with 24 votes.

The Highland Avenue, Holyoke Street and Park Street locations garnered three, two and six votes, respectively.

A number of objections and concerns were raised about the locations. Among the most dramatic was from Joy Winnie, a former city councilor, who said the Holyoke Street site was cut through by a right of way that her family has enjoyed for decades.

“My right of way goes right through the middle of your park,” she said.

Although the Nonotuck Park site was faulted for being closed for part of the year, it was the only site that drew vocal support at the forum.

“I’m a Nonotuck Park fan,” said Jody Kasper, Northampton’s police chief, who was speaking as a resident.

“I think Nonotuck Park is where it should go,” said another attendee.

One man also said that he found it “offensive” that the park is closed during the winter, and said that should change.

Zaret told the Gazette that because of the Parks and Recreation Commission objection, he had put the Nonotuck site out of his mind. The sentiment expressed at the forum Thursday, however, changed that.

“Clearly it’s something that the community’s interested in,” he said.

City Councilor J.P. Kwiecinski, chair of the City Council’s property subcommittee, said that he wasn’t surprised about the enthusiasm for the Nonotuck Park site, noting its central location and easy access.

Parks and Recreation Commission Member James Ramsey said he and the commission are not against a dog park, but they don’t think it should be in Nonotuck Park. Putting it there, he said, would require tree-clearing.

Ramsey attributed the strong support for the Nonotuck Park site to “NIMBY” attitudes about the other sites.

No meeting has yet to be set for the City Council’s property subcommittee, which is considering the sites, or for another public forum.

Bagg said he believed the city wouldn’t be going forward with the Holyoke Street, Park Street and Highland Avenue sites. He also said that, of the two sites off Oliver Street, one would be the focus there, and that in his mind it was down to two sites at this point.

“I think that that’s pretty clearly shown,” Bagg said.

Bagg said Nonotuck Park was a more challenging location for the park than Oliver Street.

“It’s complex,” he said. “There’s a lot of demand on Nonotuck.”

He also said this may indicate that it’s time to do a master plan for the park.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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