Amherst dog park construction expected by spring

  • A rendering of the kiosk that would greet visitors to the dog park. Submitted

Staff Writer
Published: 12/11/2019 10:00:01 PM

AMHERST — A site for people’s canine companions to play and get exercise, in the planning stages for several years, should finally get underway when winter ends.

The first municipal dog park in Amherst is expected to be constructed next year on a 2-acre portion of the capped landfill on the south side of Belchertown Road.

With The Berkshire Design Group of Northampton most of the way through creating the design, and a full $225,000 grant received from the Stanton Foundation of Cambridge, Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek said the Dog Park Task Force anticipates the town soliciting bids in the next six to eight weeks.

“The committee’s goal is to be under construction in the spring,” Ziomek said.

With about $250,000 available for construction, and an effort to raise another $100,000 to enhance the dog park, 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. Water fixtures will be installed to hydrate dogs, and later shade structures and benches may be incorporated or added. A parking lot will have 18 spaces.

Ziomek cautions that the site, which will be free and open to the public from dawn to dusk daily all season except the coldest months, is unlikely to have a full opening until 2021, almost six years after a petition circulated calling on town officials to build a dog park. The timeline is three to four months to build, and then there will be a need for additional time for grass to become established.

Still, Dog Park Task Force Chairman Jim Pistrang said dog owners should be getting excited, as many of the hurdles have been cleared, including approvals from the Planning Board, the Design Review Board, the Disability Access Advisory Committee and the Conservation Commission.

The committee hopes to know the precise construction schedule by the end of February.

In the meantime, the task force is launching the Friends of Amherst Dog Park (amherstdogpark.org) and will begin soliciting contributions.

Pistrang said there is already enough money for a kiosk that will greet visitors at the parking lot, with rules and regulations posted and a marker to honor donors. Other sponsorship opportunities will include benches and the shade structures. 

The campaign has already received $50,000 in pledges, and Pistrang hopes that amount can be doubled in the coming months.

The cost to operate the dog park will be minimal, Ziomek said, though the Friends group could make donations of time and money, including removing trash from the site, mowing the grass and maintaining fences.

Municipal dog parks are continuing to be considered as amenities in local communities, with Easthampton recently dicussing again an appropriate site for one, with many favoring Nonotuck Park. Dog parks have also been built in Holyoke, Agawam and Greenfield, all using money from the Stanton Foundation.

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


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