|Lee McIntyre, who spearheaded the nine-month experiment, sat at Cold Spring Park to enforce the new off-leash rules. (Ben Terris for The Boston Globe)|
Dog park draws growls of displeasure from neighbors
Cold Spring field now off-leash area
Newton launched a nine-month dog park experiment at Cold Spring Park last week and neighbors are vociferously voicing their opposition, suggesting the new policy will make out-of-control situation even worse.
Eve Cohen said that dogs have always been a problem at the park but it worsened last year when word spread the city was thinking about allowing dogs off leash there. A nine-month off-leash policy limited to a designated area officially went into effect Tuesday and Cohen and other neighbors are not pleased.
"We are being invaded all unnecessarily and on the whim of a decision the city made," said Cohen. She and others complain about a dramatic increase in traffic and street parking at Cold Spring, off Beacon Street in Waban.
Lee McIntyre, a dog owner who helped spearhead the experiment, said the change will benefit neighbors because off-leash dogs will be limited to one area of the park.
But Cohen and others don't see it that way.
"Dogs are basically running wild around here," said neighbor Jose Saporta. "I have had three come into my house, I have had others take over my backyard so that my children are afraid to even go outside. Not only that, but this park has been drawing people from all over, only making problems worse."
"None of the people who put this in motion has had to deal with the impact that this is having on our neighborhood," said Cohen. "Parking, congestion. Trash and delivery trucks are not being able to get through. . .This is turning into a free-for-all."
The dispute over off-leash dogs here reflects similar confrontations at Perrin Park in Wellesley, and Cat Rock Park and the Weston Reservoir in Weston.
McIntyre was at Cold Spring Park Tuesday sitting in a lawn chair beside a new sign that read "Dogs must be leashed until you reach the off-leash area." He wanted to make sure that all users of the park were aware of the new rules.
Since the off-leash area is in a trial period, McIntyre wanted to make some things clear to dog owners, namely that the entire park is not off-leash, just one field, and that cleaning up after your dog is a must.
"It took so long for us to get this park," said McIntyre, who, when not walking his two German shepherds and golden retriever, is a writer, philosopher, and part-time teacher at Simmons College. "I just want to make sure that people follow the rules so we can keep it this way."
McIntyre is aware that neighbors are not happy with the new arrangement, but he thinks it's an improvement.
"We have had an underground illegal dog park here for years," said McIntyre, who estimated nearly 200 people bring their dogs to Cold Spring.
"But to have it be official will really benefit everyone, and not just dog owners. Sure, the owners won't be getting fined for taking their dogs off their leashes, but people without dogs will benefit, too. Now that there is an official place to bring dogs, a place with a set of rules, it should really keep them from being places they shouldn't be."
Mayor David Cohen said in a statement that he is "delighted that Cold Spring Park is now open to dog owners as an off-leash park."
"The success of the trial depends in large part to users adherence to the requirements that are posted on site," the mayor said.
For the past 10 years, the Board of Alderman has been discussing the possibility of off-leash sites for dogs. Alderwoman Susan Albright chaired the task force charged with tackling the issue. To her, the creation of off-leash sites was more than just about giving dogs their freedom.
"The task force is on a path which is really a social experiment," Albright said. "Can we change behavior in Newton? Can we get folks who have not been obeying the law to come forward and establish legal dog parks? Can we satisfy the neighbors near these parks that this is in their best interest? Can we satisfy the stewards of the land, i.e., the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Conservation Commission, that establishing legal parks are ultimately good for the land?"
With these thoughts in mind, the Board of Aldermen voted to allow dogs to be off-leash in "designated areas" in 2007.
At that time, no such places existed. So McIntyre and some of his fellow dog walkers, who dubbed themselves Friends of Cold Spring Dog Park, began a campaign to make their park an off-leash site.
By July of last year the Parks and Recreation Commission allowed a field in Cold Spring Park to be a designated off-leash site as long as there were appropriate signs. McIntyre and others raised money to pay for the signs, which were put up Tuesday, making the place official for the trial period.
McIntyre admits that dog owners benefit from the dog park.
"What we really have here is the new town square," he said. "It's the most social place around. We come to talk politics, movies, and even network."
But neighbors are not pleased with the change.
"I have no issue with letting [dogs] run around the meadow," said Saporta. "It's the utter disregard for the rules regarding where they need to be on leash.
"Most people just open their car door and let the dogs run free. I had a dog wander into my house, and when I called the police, the dog owner came into my house angry that I wouldn't give his dog back."
Ann Stock, another neighbor, said she has owned a dog for 17 years and volunteers at an animal shelter but thinks the situation at the park is out of control.
"I think everyone should have the right to run in the park without being jumped on by a dog," she said.
"The major issue here is that those who have campaigned to make this park a dog park don't even live around here," she said. "I walk my own dog in the park at least once a day, and I will tell you that there is not one person whose property abuts this property, dog owner or not, who was in favor of this. We used to be able to say that we lived on a quiet street, but we can't say that anymore."