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Neighbors seeking park space for Fenway’s four-legged residents

Posted by Emily Files  October 1, 2012 12:48 PM

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dogpark1.jpeg
The site plan for the park, courtesy of Fenway Dog Park.

The dogs of Fenway may get space to run off-leash in the Back Bay Fens, under a proposal being shepherded by area residents, who are seeking approval to establish the Fenway Dog Park. dogpark.jpeg

After a chance meeting while walking their dogs in spring 2010, residents Matt Lesiczka and Leda Anderson discovered their common desire for a local dog park. They reached out to other dog park activists and then launched the Fenway Dog Park website to stir local support.

A third dog owner, Jay Domen, reached out to them after seeing the site, and together, the trio formed a non-profit group dedicated to giving the dogs of Fenway a space to call their own.

Their motives are simple: “There is recreation for all residents of the society, except the four-legged ones,” said Lesiczka.

Currently, there are no off-leash dog parks in walking distance of the Fens, so dog owners say they are forced to walk their pets on leashes on busy sidewalks, or on areas of the Fens that are not designated for dogs. An off-leash park would give dogs an open space to run freely and safely and to socialize, the FDP organizers say.

Lesiczka said many Fenway residents are young professionals and college students who like to keep active along with their furry pals. Anderson called the neighborhood around the Fens a "quaint little community" with plenty of pets, predicting that the dog park would be “a major attraction that everyone in the community can appreciate.”

After two years of planning, the group has collected more than 200 signatures on petitions for the park, and is now gathering letters of support that it hopes will help to secure approvals from the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, which oversees the Fens.

The next step for the FDP is simple, Domen said, but will take time: The group plans to approach parks officials informally to discuss which civic leaders to solicit for support. Once armed with letters of support, members plan to approach the Emerald Necklace
Conservancy for approval. The letters are necessary so that the Conservancy and parks department will know "this isn’t just a tongue-in-cheek, off-the-cuff idea," Lesizcka said. "This has been well thought-out.”

Domen said the group is ready to "ramp up, reset and refresh" this fall and winter in garnering the necessary support.

The Fens is part of the Emerald Necklace park system, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the late 19th century for recreational use and as an escape from the pressures of city life. The Conservancy works to keep the parks clean and accessible to residents, while ensuring that the Fens remains true to the character of the area.

Anderson said she believes FDP’s goal “sticks” to the intent of the Conservancy to keep the area natural and provide recreational space for the community. The dog park would be located on an area due south of the Roberto Clemente field that is currently covered in geese feces and unused by park goers.

An initial start-up cost of $30,000 would be needed to build a fence for the 14,500-square foot area and to lay 130 yards of playground mulch as surface. There would be no membership fee, so funds would have to be raised for the initial set-up and annual maintenance, estimated at about $1,000. The park would be self-policing; dog owners who frequent it would participate in maintaining it. Leaders of FDP say they will pledge to keep the park in good condition, or dismantle it if it gets rundown.

Initial response to the park has been positive. In August 2011, FDP invited residents -- dog owners and non-dog owners alike -- to attend an informational meeting at a restaurant. The proposal received strong support, with some residents already offering up donations, FDP leaders said.

Currently, many dog owners, including Lesiczka, walk their dogs on leashes around the Fens because it is “such a peaceful place,” Lesiczka said. But he said his dog “loves to be able to play with other dogs, and having a safe area for him to enjoy the Fens, as other Boston residents do, would not only allow him to exert his energy, but give dog owners like myself peace of mind -- knowing he is doing so safely and not bothering other park-goers.”

In addition to providing a safe environment for dogs to exercise and socialize, Lesiczka said he'd like to see the park become a place for people to talk about responsible dog ownership, including offering support and education to first-time dog owners.

More information about the Fenway Dog Park - including offerings of mugs, hats and T-shirts for sale, to support the park -- is available at fenwaydogpark.org, or on Facebook and Twitter.

This article was reported and written by Northeastern University journalism student Brittany Everett, under the supervision of journalism instructor Lisa Chedekel, as part of collaboration between The Boston Globe and Northeastern.

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