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Neighbors growl about new dog park at Cold Spring

Posted by Your Town  March 20, 2009 07:30 AM

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By Ben Terris, Globe Correspondent

Neighbors of Cold Spring Park, where a new off leash dog park began this week, are vociferously voicing their opposition, suggesting the new policy will make an out-of-control situation even worse.

One local resident, 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.

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.’’

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.

‘‘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.’’

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."

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20 comments so far...
  1. Maybe we should just keep bring out dogs to the dog park in Brookline where people aren't so snooty.

    Posted by K March 20, 09 10:27 AM
  1. I used to live in CA, and there's a funny but useful term they use: UVC, which stands for Under Voice Control. I think part of having a dog off-leash means that dogs need to behave themselves, even in a dog area of a park. Dogs don't often stay confined to the dog area of a park. If dog owners can help keep them confined by having voice control over them, it would be less chaotic.

    Parks are multi-functional and should make everyone feel welcome and comfortable. However, dogs that are off-leash should not be jumping all over people. In response to K, I'm pretty certain that people in Brookline don't want to be jumped on either. It has nothing to do with snootiness.

    Posted by happy2b March 20, 09 03:11 PM
  1. i agree happy2b...it isn't about snottiness. the difference is that brookline park is a DOG PARK. fenced in. you don't really enter it unless you have a dog. but even when i'm walking my dog in cold spring park (leashed) i get so irritated when all these dogs approach us and bother us and the owners seem oblivious to the nuisance it creates. i'm waiting for the day when my dog snaps and bites one of those pesky dogs....it won't be my fault that's for sure.

    Posted by rosie March 20, 09 03:57 PM
  1. Wow Rosie, you get irritated when another dog approaches your dog and "bothers"
    you? Dogs socializing is a nuisance to you? (That IS snootiness) Your waiting for the day when your dog bites another dog? It sounds like YOU are the irresponsible dog owner! Your biting dog, needs a muzzle in addition to his leash before he should be allowed in the park! Instead of sitting here writing, perhaps you should watch Cesar Milan's show, or hire a trainer, and educate yourself and your dog about proper animal behavior. I'd bet your dog would love to run with the other dogs and get some exercise, instead of just being dragged by you on a leash, secretly fearful of other dogs. If this is how you treat your dog, you should get fish, because you are not fit or qualified to be a dog owner. Imagine, dogs running free in what will hopefully become a designated dog park. Dogs in one area, as opposed to every where. Something smells like poop here, and it isn't from the dogs. It's from the abutting neighbors who think the park is their own and not for others to enjoy. The article in todays Boston Globe says it all. Rosie, I would say let your dog run and enjoy himself, but since you already said he bites, is untrained and needs to leashed, I have to wonder, is he safe for the park at all? Are you putting me and my family in danger? A biting dog is more then a nuisance. He is a danger to our community, and if not properly trained, should be removed from our community.

    Posted by joe March 22, 09 08:28 AM
  1. . if an unleashed dog approaches a leashed dog without warning, the leashed dog will most probably act in defense of itself and its owner. an unprovoked "attack" by a strange, unleashed, and potentially dangerous dog (obviously untrained if it is running amok without its owner) is the problem here, not the responsble owners that are willing to respect the boundaries of leashed and unleashed areas. if your dog is not 100% responsive to your voice command, he/she has NO BUSINESS being off-leash in a PUBLIC DOG PARK, as it is endangering both the humans and canines that visit there. and please, stop watching cesar milan.

    Posted by kestrel March 22, 09 10:01 AM
  1. Why is it always the neighbors of these parks the bad guys? People bought their homes next to a playground, athletic field, walking, jogging, kite flying, kid-giggling piece of land. Then people with dogs decide society is responsible for their decision to own a dog and start insinuating themselves and their animals onto these playgrounds. No one wants to live next to a nuisance that will impact the value of their property and their right to quiet enjoyment of that property. Is dog excercising & toileting the highest and best use for this land? Can dog owners still "socialize & network" with their dogs on Leash?

    Posted by dog owner March 22, 09 11:30 AM
  1. oh joe. i'm sorry you're so misguided and full of self -righteousness. perhaps you could ask me further questions instead of assuming you know the in and outs of my personal life. as a matter of fact, my dog has never bitten. i believe if you read my post again, you would see i said i'm WAITING, not that it has happened, but i can tell you, if he is approached by a pack of unleashed dogs (including being humped multiple times while the owner looks the other direction socializing on her own) i wouldn't blame him in the least if he took it upon himself to defend himself with a snap or two and teach those owners a lesson about not training THEIR dogs. but he in fact is too mild-mannered which is why this unleashed issue is a problem. why is he leashed?? not because he needs to be, but because i follow the leash law in newton joe, that's why!! i'm not talking about the meadow, i'm talking about when we are on trails! I, unlike most of you, understand what it means to follow the rules. and if you dog owners continue to allow your dogs to run unleashed in areas OTHER THAN THE OFF LEASH AREA you will be ruining it for the rest of us.
    this is not your park joe. do you even understand the word community? you must follow the rules to live in an orderly society. stop running your mouth so much and open your ears. you might learn something.

    Posted by Rosie March 22, 09 12:04 PM
  1. by the way Joe, I find it humorous that the minute I said my dog is on a leash, you automatically assumed it was because he is untrainable and uncontrollable. it never once occurred to you I just might be one of the few dog owners in Newton that actually obey the law. That says enough about all of you right there. Now who's "snotty"?

    Posted by Anonymous March 22, 09 12:17 PM
  1. Anyone who has driven through Newton Center looking for a parking spot knows that civility and respect for fellow citizens and neighbors is sadly quite low in this town.

    Before moving to Newton, we frequently visited the enclosed dog parks in Boston's S. End. Those parks are a success and benefit the entire community. Rosie is 100% correct - the Newton experiment will fail unless fencing is added to the recipe. People simply can't be trusted to behave in a responsible manner without a great deal of oversight...

    Posted by MAP March 22, 09 12:30 PM
  1. So lets see,
    Some people are upset because people have complained about dogs exercising unleashed all over the park. An experiment is underway to utilize one designated spot for this purpose, to hopefully alleviate the existing problem, and provide a workable solution for both sides of this debate. And one side is still complaining, before the "experiment" has had a chance to take effect, or has concluded? What if the experiment is a success? Doesn't that solve the problem? I don't get it, at this juncture the opposition argument doesn't make total sense. What is the real, underlying issues here?

    Posted by Rover March 22, 09 05:00 PM
  1. For those who want fencing; Is it possible to pay for it out of the new high school budget, since money is no object? No snoottyness there, just good old neighborly fiscal responsibility within our community! Good fences make for good neighbors, and high taxes keep the low income pit bull owners out! I think that's the real story!

    Posted by CeeCee March 22, 09 05:11 PM
  1. well rover, i think the underlying issue is lack of faith due to past behavior. if dog owners were allowing their dogs to run free, unleashed, all over the park, while it was illegal.....why do i believe that will change now that it IS legal? Sure, the rule is to keep them leased until they reach the meadow, which is the designated off leash area, but if they were not following the rules before, why would this be any different? but you are right, the experiment has just begun and we shall see. but attitudes like Joe's scares some of us. It is not a park to allow dogs to "roam free"....with this new privilege comes great responsibility. only time will tell if people can change. we shall see.....

    Posted by Anonymous March 22, 09 07:02 PM
  1. Money from the high school budget? Stay on topic CeeCee. To dog owner: it's not that those who live next to public spaces are the 'bad guys' its just that you purchased property across from a park. It may have sounded great when you first bought the place, but then you realized it's not as great as it seemed. You said: those who "are responsible for their decision to own a dog" is the same lame excuse that you are responsible for the decision you made to buy a house abutting a park. Deal w/your decision or move.

    From what I've seen (and I agree w/Rosie completely here), parks are for everyone, but there needs to be total CONSIDERATION for others when in a public space. Turning their heads the other way while their dog is wildly out of control is not okay. You can't make an assumption that everyone wants to be jumped on and kissed by your dog. It's totally rude and disrespectful. A little awareness in the park when you're not the only one there. It's consideration 101. And yes, some people simply don't get it.

    Posted by happy2b March 22, 09 09:35 PM
  1. Unreal. You guys are all just cutting each other down personally. I've been living in San Diego the last two years and out there, we've got dog parks galore. Some have fences, some do not. They all work out great in the community. There are doggy water fountains, picnic benches, doggy bags and more, all paid for by the city. The views of the coastline or mountains are stunning- space reserved not for million dollar homes for for a DOG. Can you believe it? It's not just about dogs, it's about the people that own them. Us dog people (the responsible ones) are out there day in and day out, rain or shine, ice storm or not to walk our dogs. It's a wonderful asset to a town to provide beautiful space for the residents, (and, god, do I have to say this, residents of other towns too obviously) to enjoy. Dogs are outdoor animals that love to romp and play and meet and greet everyone they can. Maybe you folks should learn a thing or two. I thought Joe had some great points... I hate those people who act all high and mighty trying to patrol other dog owners at parks with their unsocialized dog on a tight ole leash. Everyone in MA needs to take a big collective sigh and brush it off- its JUST a park and its JUST a dog. The neighbors complaining that a park is being used for dogs is just rude and insulting. I have not seen owners just let their dogs run "amock" without a care in the world as to where the dog is going. And, leashed dogs dont just "attack" unleashed dogs. That is just lame.

    Posted by labgirl March 23, 09 01:01 AM
  1. I have never heard of a "dog park" that was unfenced. I think dog parks are a great idea and having one in this part of Newton sounds wonderful. However, having one that is unfenced is doomed to failure. Even the best trained dogs can "forget" their training in the excitement of romping with a bunch of other dogs. To have a large number of dogs running free even in this one field sounds like a recipe for trouble. Why not throw a fence up and make it more official. I think the neighbors would be relived to not have strange dogs wandering into their yards.

    Posted by Collovo March 23, 09 07:17 AM
  1. Labgirl, with all due respect, I think you and Joe seem to have missed the point completely. why is it so crazy to have a dog on a leash? why do you presume they are uncontrollable or "unsocialized" as you claim. My dog is QUITE socialized. In fact, before I moved to Newton, we went to a fenced dog park every single day. My dog is well-behaved, and well-socialized. So please stop laying claims you know nothing about just to distract from the real issue. the real issue is that there is a leash law in the town of Newton. That seems to be gravely overlooked. I'm all for letting dogs roam free, at the appropriate time and place. when people go walking or jogging on the trails of CSP, they don't always want to be approached by an off-leash, wandering dog whose owner always seems to be several paces behind. Not everyone is a dog lover like we are. And we need to be respectul of that when in a public place. not only is it the law, it's common courtesy.

    Posted by Anonymous March 23, 09 08:52 AM
  1. reading this reaffirms my decision to get out of this state especially after traveling this winter in CA and UT where people actually get to enjoy going outside with or without their pets and have fun, get exercise, socialize etc. why is it okay for people to bring their misbehaved kids evreywhere but people with dogs - TAXPAYING CITIZENS OF THE SAME STATE AND COUNTRY YOU LIVE IN - are regulated and criticized every step of the way. massachusetts is full of hyporcitical, kennedy loving limousine liberals who seriously need to realize the world does NOT revolve around them. my dogs are better behave than most children i meet but i will be da**ed if i step foot in snotty newton's new dog park. i wish you all the best and to h*ll with all the neighboring pests...get a life!

    Posted by Anonymous March 23, 09 09:35 AM
  1. Fences for the leash-free area of the park should be required. Dogs should be up-to-date on shots, free of nuisance complaints and monitored at all times. I know you think people can keep their dogs under control, but as a former dog owner and survivor of a dog attack (at an unfenced "dog park"), control is not something you always have. And, have you thought that not all people like being accosted by strange dogs while using the park? If you love this dog park, buy the fences and do it right. Or learn to walk your dog.

    Posted by bigdog March 23, 09 12:38 PM
  1. Very simple solutions -
    1) Similar to Brookline and other communities, we need a fence around the dog park in CSP. Otherwise, the 'dog park' will include neighboring areas, houses, trails, etc. and there will be continuing tension between dog park users and other Newton residents.
    2) We need Newton to enforce the leash law outside the 'dog park' in CSP. For example, there is no reason for dogs to be off-leash on the trails. I would suggest a $50 fine for any dog found off a leash. In the spirit of budget neutrality, this would be a nice way to fund the construction of the fence around the dog park...
    3) We can all lighten up - hey, it's almost Spring!

    Posted by Spot March 23, 09 07:11 PM
  1. The fence issue is a non-starter, at least at Cold Spring Park. The old ball field is in an isolated and enclosed area with hills and trees on all sides. It is easy to avoid if you do no want to see dogs. The other issue is cost. One early estimate ran at $100,000 to enclose the couple of acres on the old ball field! Who is going to pay for that? The city? The Friends of Cold Spring Dog Park is a citizen group that raised all of the money to pay for the signs at the new off-leash area. It cost over $500. Should we now be required to pay for a fence too? Look at the Brookline "Green Dog" program. They have many successful parks with no fences. If you don't want to encounter dogs, avoid the off-leash area. In this budgetary climate, to insist on a fence is to say that we can't have an off-leash dog park.

    Posted by Angus March 29, 09 03:32 PM