South Hadley moves forward with dog park, school improvement plans

  • South Hadley Town Hall File photo

Staff Writer
Published: 11/13/2018 12:12:18 AM

SOUTH HADLEY — All 12 articles presented at a Special Town Meeting on Wednesday night passed, including two articles that support the creation of a dog park on Mulligan Drive. 

The proposed, three-acre dog park sparked several questions and concerns among some Town Meeting members. 

Article 4 asked if the town should enter an agreement with Friends of South Hadley Dog Park to use the proposed area on Mulligan Drive for the park, while Article 5 asked if the town should provide funding to match a Stanton Foundation grant and finance a drinkable water source and other startup costs for the park.

The grant would fully fund up to $25,000 in design expenses, and 90 percent of up to $225,000 in construction costs. 

Town Meeting member Joanna Brown voiced concerns that “dog attacks, injuries or other altercations could happen,” as well as the possibility of communicable diseases spreading between dogs in communal spaces. 

“Given my concerns, I will vote against this even though I like dogs and I love the idea of a dog park,” Brown said at the meeting.

Robert Berwick, president of the Friends of South Hadley Dog Park and a Town Meeting member, acknowledged that there are concerns surrounding the dog park, but said that his group is committed to fundraising to cover annual expenses, repay the town if needed and “preserve the longevity of the park” if the Friends of South Hadley Dog Park were to dissolve, which he noted as an unlikely event.  

“We are people who are willing to work very very hard, which we have been doing, and we are people who are committed to not costing the town any money for this park in the long run,” Berwick said.

Berwick added that the dog park will be “insured and protected so that any viciousness is ameliorated,” and noted that people who go to dog parks have a tendency to “self-police” the area if another dog owner is causing any disruptions.

Town Meeting Member Larry Dubois raised concerns over the park’s proximity to Ledges Golf Club, which is adjacent to the proposed site. 

Dubois recommended situating the dog park across the street, adding, “all we need is one ball to hit somebody in the head” to cause a preventable tragedy. 

Other Town Meeting members questioned whether residents of surrounding neighborhoods had been included in conversations, the longevity of the dog park and related expenses.

Town Meeting and Select Board member Bruce Forcier responded that the group may be able to position the park’s site to minimize golf ball hazards or add netting to the area. Forcier also said that nearby residents have had the opportunity to voice their opinion in “several meetings that have been well publicized.” 

Select Board Chairman Ira Brezinsky said that the Select Board does not believe that the golf course will pose a hazard, but proposed an amendment to Article 4 that would designate the park’s location as on Mulligan Drive “or any other suitable property as determined by the Select Board,” which passed.

Brezinsky later said that not all dog owners in town have sufficient yard space for their pets, adding that South Hadley does not currently have any other areas where owners can legally let their dogs run.

“We have a lot of condos if you haven’t noticed in South Hadley, and people that perhaps live on smaller lots than might be appropriate,” Brezinsky said, “So dogs were born to run, and I personally think that we have a responsibility to not put dog owners between a rock and a hard place and allow their dogs to live the way they should.”

Both articles received some dissent but passed with majority support.

Other articles

Town Meeting members also voted to pass Article 1, which will transfer $200,000 from unreserved free cash to create a “Mosier School Stabilization Fund,” which will be used to renovate or replace Mosier Elementary School.

"At this point in time, the hope and the goal is the result of whatever work is done is going to be substantial renovation, and hopefully not a new building,” Brezinsky said. 

“That is the focus that both the school department and the Select Board are using at the moment,” he continued, “so for anybody that's thinking that we are charging full speed ahead toward a new school building, that will hopefully not be the case, but there’s a long way to go before that’s determined.”

Members also passed passed articles to transfer funding from unreserved free cash or other available funds to projects and entities such as the Senior Center Stabilization Fund, an Americans with Disabilities Act self-evaluation and transition plan and the Other Post Employment Benefit Fund.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at 

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