Dog park construction to begin in Amherst

Staff Writer
Published: 6/30/2020 1:57:57 PM

AMHERST — As soon as town and state officials are certain that work will not interfere with the habitat for a threatened bird species, construction on Amherst’s first dog park is expected to begin.

Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek recently informed the Dog Park Task Force that Valiant-America of New Bedford has been selected to build the park on a nearly 2-acre section of the capped landfill on the south side of Belchertown Road.

“We are moving forward,” Ziomek said.

Valiant was selected with a $280,466 base bid and various alternatives, including water fixtures and shade structures.

The cost is being covered with a $225,000 grant from the Stanton Foundation of Cambridge and $90,000 from the town’s Community Preservation Act account. Valiant will work from designs created by the Berkshire Design Group of Northampton.

Plans show a site with separate spaces for big and small dogs, each with plenty of grass to play on and a pea stone surface in other parts, along with a play mound.

The exact date for breaking ground on the project, which will be managed by the Department of Public Works, will depend on the presence of the grasshopper sparrow, a state-listed threatened species that uses the habitat for nesting.

“Some years they’re there, some years they’re not,” Ziomek said.

The largest habitat for these birds, at Westover Air Base in Chicopee, can sometimes accommodate all of the nests, but in other years pairs need to find alternate sites and have been drawn to the capped landfills in Amherst.

Ziomek will work with the state’s Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program to see if there is any grasshopper sparrow nesting activity.

The town has $344,550 total available for the project and could cover the cost of additions to the park, such as an entrance kiosk and equipment shed.

A parking lot will have 18 spaces.

A fence is expected to be installed around the perimeter of the capped landfill at a later date that will limit access and better protect the habitat. Aside from the dog park, only the sledding hill and Robert Frost Trail will not be fenced off.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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