Neighbors oppose plan for dog park in Randolph
Say it would lead to more noise, traffic
A group in Randolph hoping to build a fenced-in dog park on conservation land recently snared $75,000 in community preservation money toward the effort, but homeowners near the site are opposed, saying they don’t want their neighborhood disrupted by barking canines and increased traffic from dawn to dusk.
The debate over such a facility isn’t new to the region. Only one fenced-in dog park, located in Sharon and heavily used, has been able to avoid the controversy such proposals inevitably stir up.
In Randolph, where the dog park is being promoted for a tract off Stoughton Street, the initiative is already kicking up quite the storm.
Richard Brewer, a Randolph town councilor and leader of the effort to build the dog park, maintains it’s the first time in 20 years he’s seen a community come together so enthusiastically over a proposal.
“There hasn’t been a group of people as strong to make something happen since the town built the Imagination Station playground,’’ said Brewer, who says the town is home to some 1,700 dogs. “There’s a lot of support, and people are very excited. We gathered 1,250 signatures on a petition backing the park.’’
But homeowners on Stoughton Street submitted their own petition protesting the plan.
“We bought our house because it abuts conservation land,’’ said Melissa Schlossberg, whose home would be 150 feet from the dog park. Schlossberg said she is most concerned about increased traffic on their narrow street.
“We’re dog-friendly people, but we’re still not interested in having a dog park behind our house,’’ she said.
Neighbor John Prendergast said he is frustrated by the lack of sympathy he says the Town Council has shown, recently approving $75,000 in preservation funding for the park despite the neighborhood outcry.
“I don’t think the town officials are listening to us at all,’’ Prendergast said. “I think a certain segment has decided they’re going to have a dog park, and they’re going to do it.’’
Although the region abounds in conservation tracts where dogs can roam off-leash, dog park proponents say enclosed parks are safer. Marshfield’s former animal control officer, Norma Haskins, said she prefers fenced-in areas.
“If dogs are fenced in, they can’t wander away, get into traffic, or get lost,’’ Haskins said. “It also keeps them away from wildlife like coyotes or animals like skunks and raccoons that carry rabies. The socializing dogs get at dog parks is also very important.’’
A group led by Haskins pitched three locations in Marshfield for a fenced-in dog park between 2004 and 2006, only to be shot down each time. Twice the locations were abandoned due to concerns from officials and abutters. The third proposal met with failure at Town Meeting, when voters preferred to use the target site for another purpose. Haskins’s group has since disbanded.
“I hope the group in Randolph has better luck than we did,’’ she said.
A Foxborough group was successful in opening a fenced-in dog park on a conservation tract in 2006. But two years later, town officials permanently shut it down as part of a court settlement with park abutters.
Donald Baker, who filed the lawsuit, said the park was built next to his small neighborhood. “It operated from dawn to dusk, seven days a week,’’ he said. “You could hear dogs barking constantly. You couldn’t enjoy your home.’’
Heather Harding, who led the effort for the Foxborough park, said her group has not given up. “We haven’t found a new site yet, but we’re working on it,’’ she said.
The Sharon dog park, opened in 2004 by a private nonprofit group called the Friends of the Sharon Dog Park, continues to thrive with little or no controversy.
“We manage the operation, and it’s entirely privately supported,’’ said Rob Maidman, vice president of the Friends’ board of directors. The park is on town land between ball fields and Lake Massapoag. Park users, he said, must respect the neighbors and town and park regulations.
Maidman advises Randolph’s dog park promoters to maintain good relations with the community. “The understanding and good will of the park users will determine the success or failure of the facility,’’ he said.
Brewer said his group has worked with neighbors, recently shifting the parking lot’s planned location based on their concern. “We don’t want to be at odds with the neighbors,’’ he said. “This is a positive thing.’’
Randolph’s Town Council chairman, Andrew Azer, agreed.
“No matter what the location is, there is going to be some people affected,’’ Azer said. “I think this would be a great asset for the town.’’
The Randolph Conservation Commission, which has authority over the target site, will decide whether the dog park can be built there. Chairman Jesse Krawiec said several hearings, to be scheduled next month, will allow all sides to voice their concern.
“I think we’ll see a lot of people on both sides of the issue,’’ Krawiec said. “We probably won’t be making our decision until October.’’
Christine Legere can be reached at email@example.com.