Dog park task force to seek CPA funds

  • The Dog Park Task Force is hoping to create a free park where dogs can roam leash-free. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/29/2017 10:54:36 PM

AMHERST — A group aiming to get a dog park built somewhere in Amherst will be seeking money from the Community Preservation Act to acquire land.

Dog Park Task Force Chairman Jim Pistrang, who is also the town moderator, said last Thursday that while town-owned land remains a possibility for the dog park, the group will ask the CPA Committee, by its Dec. 8 deadline, to provide enough money to buy private property.

“We’re going to be putting a proposal to CPA because there’s a chance we’d want to purchase land for that,” Pistrang said.

The task force is charged with coming up with a plan for building the dog park, where dog owners could bring their pets to run, play and socialize. It would supplement the conservation trails and town parks where restrictions are in place, including having to keep dogs on leashes at most times.

Pistrang said Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek and his staff in the conservation and development departments are developing a list of public sites that might be suitable for a dog park, but it is uncertain if any will be realistic.

There is also hope, though Pistrang said chances are remote, that an “amazing benefactor” will step forward to donate land.

The hope is that by the end of the year, a site big enough to accommodate a dog park about 1½ acres in size, will be identified, Pistrang said. The park could then be built and ready for use by fall 2018.

A preferred area of town is not yet known, though it won’t be in the middle of a residential neighborhood, where the noise from dogs may be problematic, and should be on a bus route making it accessible.

The Stanton Foundation provides grants for building dog parks, but the task force can’t apply for the money until the site is known.

Research done by the task force since it formed in June has singled out Agawam’s dog park as a model. The park has a water feature to keep dogs hydrated, a shelter for owners in case of inclement weather, and benches on which people can sit.

Peter Wells of the Berkshire Design Group is offering to do schematic designs for the dog park.

When a site is secured and money is available, Pistrang said the town could then put out a request for proposal to solicit bids for the design.

He anticipates the cost of construction will be anywhere from $30,000 to $200,000.

“Our hope is the Stanton Foundation would pay for a good portion of that,” Pistrang said.

Pistrang said the vision is unlike the private dog park recently approved in Northampton, where members will pay yearly or monthly fees, and visitors will gain access at a daily rate.

Amherst’s dog park would be free for anyone to use, so long as their dogs are up to date on rabies shots and are licensed. That would give visitors to town, such as parents who come to see their college student, the opportunity to use the park.

Meanwhile, the task force is beginning more outreach to establish an organization, such as a friends group, that would provide support for upkeep and maintenance.

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




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