Plans underway for 1.5-acre dog park in S. Hadley

  • Plans for a possible dog park on Mulligan Drive between the Ledges Golf Course and Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School were presented at a meeting Wednesday by Planning Board Chairman Jeff Squire. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH ROBERTSON

  • Planning Board chairman Jeff Squire presents his plans for the potential dog park being planned on Mulligan Drive between the Ledges Golf Course and Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School at a meeting on March 14. SARAH ROBERTSON—GAZETTE STAFF

Staff Writer
Published: 3/14/2018 10:41:32 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — Interest in building a dog park along Mulligan Drive has brought dog owners and town officials together to discuss the steps necessary to organize and finance the project.

More than a dozen residents met Wednesday night with Town Administrator Michael Sullivan, Planning Board Chairman Jeff Squire, and Select Board member Bruce Forcier to discuss how the town could build a dog park.

“I want to thank everyone for being here today,” Sullivan said. “It indicates to us there is a willingness and interest in doing things like this.”

Squire drafted the plans for a 1.5-acre dog park on Mulligan Drive between the Ledges Golf Course and the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School. Plans include a shade structure, 29 parking spaces, a double gate, benches, trash and recycling cans.

“I was surprised to find there was no dog park,” said Kathleen Harwood, a dog owner who recently moved to South Hadley and attended last month’s meeting. “I was disappointed but it seemed like there was movement in the past.”

Sullivan said the group could form a nonprofit and apply for a grant through the Stanton Foundation. Among other endeavors like national security and fostering an informed citizenry, the private foundation supports “canine health and welfare” though a series of grants. The maximum dog park construction grant size is $225,000, according to the foundation’s website, and will cover up to 90 percent of the construction costs, while the average design grant is typically between $10,000 and $25,000 and could cover up to 100 percent of the cost.

Squire said 1.5 acres is the minimum size for what is considered a good size for a dog park.

“There is room to expand if that becomes a need,” Squire said.

Some residents raised concerns about stray golf balls striking dogs or their owners. Kathleen Davis, the owner of two golden retrievers, said there should be lights installed to discourage vandalism. Currently, she takes her dogs for walks in Dufresne Park in Granby, or the Bachelor Brook Conservation Area trails.

Different ideas were raised about how to finance the project, but primary among them was forming a nonprofit 501(c)(3) and applying for the Stanton Foundation grant. Forcier added that the group considered a membership-based swipe card system, but determined that would be too expensive. Others insisted the park be open to the public.

“There are a lot of people in town who do want dogs and can’t afford it,” said Robin Graves, 44, adding that a park is useful for dog owners who don’t have large yards of their own.

Forcier said the organization could model its endeavor after the Friends of Buttery Brook Park. Through fundraisers and volunteer work, the group takes care of a municipal park wrought by a collaboration between the towns of Belchertown and South Hadley with the state PARC program.

“My take from that meeting was that this is really on the track to happen if there is enough interest,” Harwood said.

There are about 1,200 registered dogs in South Hadley, according to Sullivan, and he suspects there are an additional 800 to 900 unregistered dogs.

The next dog park meeting will be held on Saturday, April 7, at 10 a.m. in the Town Hall auditorium. South Hadley dog owners are encouraged to attend and share their thoughts.

Sarah Robertson can be reached at srobertson@gazettenet.com.


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