PITTSFIELD, Mass. — City officials are considering opening a field at the East Street Complex as a test site for a dog park.
The city has been awaiting funding to construct a dog park at Burbank Park since a 2017 working group fleshed out the idea and identified a location. An award from the Stanton Foundation would allow it to take the next steps.
Meanwhile, however, off-leash dogs continue to be an issue in the city.
Parks and Open Space Manager James McGrath is now suggesting using the dormant East Street location as a place to essentially test out a dog park. It wouldn't have the amenities that the eventual Burbank Park site will have but it will give a temporary place for dogs to go and to see how the operations would work.
"The pilot dog park is an opportunity for us to test how the dog park works and the community and the dogs interact with a facility like this," McGrath said.
The complex has gone unused for a couple of years. It has been barely maintained but McGrath said there is already fencing and with a little bit of work it could be used again.
"We are reacting to a community call and this site is available," McGrath said.
The concept of a dog park has been pushed for years. Last month, a resident took his concerns to the Parks Commission with off-leash dogs at Kirvin Park. McGrath said department heads have developed plans to address those concerns.
They include increased signage, working with law enforcement to bump up enforcement, and educating the public on the rules of the parks.
"We really need to put our thumbs on the issue and figure out how we can address this," McGrath said.
While the city is trying to cut down on off-leash dogs in the parks, the push for a dog park has remained. McGrath said there is still some work to be done to actually open the complex but it could provide somewhere for the dogs to go as well as get those dog owners who will essentially be the ones helping to address issues and manage the park together.
"All of the responsibility for the dog park can't just be on the city," McGrath said.
The plans for the Burbank Park includes the creation of a friends group to oversee the park and make sure those using it are behaving. A pilot site will also give those who will use the park better insight on what they'd want for amenities such as shade locations and access to water so when the other park is developed, those ideas can be incorporated into the design.
Parks Commissioner Joe Durwin, however, had some concern with the pilot. He felt that if the park didn't get the support it needs and it didn't go well then that could sour the taste for those who would want to be involved in the Burbank Park one.
"I wouldn't want the public to be confused or soured on what a dog park would look like," Durwin said.
McGrath agreed with those concerns and also agreed with Durwin that the messaging about the park needs to be handled well. McGrath added that while the Complex may have minimal amenities now if it does go well then eventually the city could invest more there and make it a permanent dog park.
"The pilot site is one we recognize that with the minimal investment we can get going," McGrath said, recognizing that expectations for the park should be tempered.
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