Easthampton eyes possible new dog park site

  • A possible dog park site off Williston Avenue in Easthampton, right, is illustrated with a conceptual sketch from City Councilor Daniel Rist. Contributed Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 3/6/2020 12:14:50 AM
Modified: 3/6/2020 12:14:39 AM

EASTHAMPTON — A possible new site for a dog park in the city is set to be considered by the Parks and Recreation Commission at its March 18 meeting, after significant opposition emerged to a proposed site off Oliver Street.

“Oliver Street will not happen,” said City Councilor Daniel Rist, who said that there are not enough votes in support on the council.

The new site is off Williston Avenue and next to Brookside Cemetery. It was originally floated to by Parks and Recreation Director John Mason to Rist.

“We think it might work,” said Rist.

Rist said the potential site would still leave room for the cemetery to expand, and is well off of the road.

The effort to bring a dog park to city land has been ongoing since last year, and City Councilor Owen Zaret has been a leading advocate for it.

“I love it,” said Zaret, of the new site.

Berkshire Design Group, a Northampton firm, was hired to explore potential sites for a dog park on city land last year. And in January, the council’s property committee voted to set a March 18 public hearing before the City Council on the Oliver Street site, which is near the solar field project there. 

“It was almost the choice by elimination,” Zaret said.

The hearing was subsequently pushed back to April 1 and then April 15. The hearing will see the full council take up the question of whether or not to ask the mayor to apply for a grant from the Stanton Foundation that could provide up to $25,000 and 100 percent of the cost of the design of a dog park.

Rist said a number of councilors are leery of the Oliver Street site, and noted that walkers have to drive there, which excludes a number of people.

Zaret also said that a number of trees need to be cleared to make the site work, which was a concern.

The Williston Avenue site will need to get the approval of the Parks and Recreation Commission, which will take up this question at its March 18 meeting. Should this happen, City Planner Jeff Bagg said that Berkshire Design would examine the site to see if it meets requirements such as size and parking capacity, then draw up a site plan and a cost estimate, as was done for the Oliver Street site.

“We are at a point in time where we still can introduce another site,” Bagg said.

He also said that ideally, when the council has a hearing, both sites would be presented.

“That’s what I would like to have happen,” he said.

Zaret said the site off Williston Avenue is almost the ideal site.

He cited its walkability, the limited environmental impact that construction there would have, and the potential for support from the Parks and Recreation Department.

“More ideal than Nonotuck Park,” Zaret said.

Nonotuck Park received a lot of public support in a November meeting that examined seven sites in five different locations. However, opposition from the Parks and Recreation Department put an end to the proposal.

Rist said the action the council takes will be based on the public hearing, and other feedback.

“Do people want this?” he said.

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


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