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Parks Commission approves off-leash plan for dogs on Boston Common

Posted by Johanna Kaiser  February 25, 2013 05:06 PM

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Dogs have a chance to keep running leash free in parts of the Boston Common if their owners follow guidelines established by a newly approved plan for rotating off-leash areas.

The Boston Parks and Recreation Commission voted Monday to approve a plan that will establish five areas in the Common where dogs can run and play leash-free.

Under the plan, proposed by the Friends of the Public Garden and its Common Canine subcommittee, two of the five areas would be used for a six-month period before the off-leash area is rotated to other areas.

The rotation will ensure the turf does not become too worn, as it has at the current off-leash area located near the Joy Street steps, and allows the areas to be restored between uses. Fencing would not be built around the areas, but signs would be posted and trash cans would be added.

The friends group would be responsible for all costs associated with running and maintaining the spaces.

“I know it’s a very challenging park to try to do this in, but it’s also a park many, many hundreds if not thousands of dog owners are using” Elizabeth Vizza, executive director of the Friends of the Public Garden, told the commission.

The sites range in size from 21,000 to 57,500 square feet. Three of the proposed sites are located near Beacon Street; two are near the Parkman Bandstand by Tremont Street, Boston.com previously reported.

While approving the plan, the commission raised concerns about enforcement of the rules and stipulated that it would review the success of the program six months after it begins.

“All of us are sympathetic to dogs wanting to run off-leash and have energy, and what not, but there is common courtesy, and the Common is for people without dogs as well,” said Susan Park, a Parks and Recreation commissioner.

Park Rangers can ticket dog owners for allowing their dog off-leash in non-designated areas or for not picking up after their pets, but it will largely be on the shoulders of dog owners to make sure the rules are followed.

“This is going to require the folks that have come to this agreement help us enforce it, and talk to dog owners and encourage dog owners to do the right thing,” Vizza said.

No date has been set for the program to begin. Vizza said the group is still working with the city to determine if the area near the Joy Street steps needs to be repaired before the other areas can be established. The area, Vizza said, has also been damaged by water runoff, and its curbing needs to be repaired.

Vizza said the six-month terms will allow turf to be rested and restored, but that the informing people of the program’s policies is equally important.

“It’s getting people to acknowledge this is the program; this is the deal with city; in order for us to allow you to do this on the Common, you’ve got to play by the rules,” she said.

E-mail Kaiser at Johanna.yourtown@gmail.com. For more news about your city, town, neighborhood, or campus, visit boston.com’s Your Town homepage.

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