Easthampton zeroes in on possible dog park sites  

  • Owen Zaret. FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/5/2019 7:58:51 PM

EASTHAMPTON – The effort to bring a dog park to Easthampton will enter its next phase at the end of this month, with a public hearing on seven possible sites.

The hearing will take place at 6:30 p.m. in Eastworks in the West Room next to the restaurant Riff’s Joint on Nov. 21. Seven sites on city land, and maps of them, will be discussed.

“We don’t have one site that’s just perfect,” said City Planner Jeffrey Bagg.

The initial impetus for a dog park came from City Councilor Owen Zaret, after he learned in a conversation with Police Chief Robert Alberti and Sergeant Dennis Scribner about Stanton Foundation’s grants for the design and construction of dog parks.

These grants can provide 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, which include labor and materials. Capital improvement grants for parks are also available from the foundation after a park’s construction.

“That was the only push I needed,” said Zaret, who described a dog park as an attraction and an amenity.

Zaret subsequently submitted the park as an agenda item to the City Council’s property subcommittee and formed a Facebook group, “Friends Of The Easthampton Dog Park.”

“There’s been a lot of community support and interest,” said Zaret.

The Community Preservation Act Committee approved $9,000 in February to fund a pre-design site selection project, and in May Berkshire Design Group was selected as the consultant for this project.

The property subcommittee had nine possible sites presented to it in October, which were narrowed down to seven by the committee.

Two of the remaining sites are in Nonotuck Park. However, the Parks and Recreation Committee voted in January against the idea of a dog park there.

John Mason, director of parks and recreation, said that the committee is “not against having a dog park in the city.”

However, he cited Nonotuck Park being closed from November until April as a reason to oppose putting a dog park there. He also cited one proposed site being near a playground and another requiring extensive tree removal as further objections.

One specific site that has generated opposition is near the Treehouse community, with a letter from city residents having been submitted opposing it.

Zaret said that he would “like to see 40 or 50 people from the city” at November’s forum.

“This isn’t a project for me, it’s a project for Easthampton,” he said.

Zaret acknowledged the seasonal issue as one of many with the dog park sites in Nonotuck. 

Of the Treehouse site, he said, “I don’t think that’s the top of our list,” while noting that this was “just his opinion.”

The councilor said that he also hoped the sites can be whittled down to two or three after the meeting.

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


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