PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Animal Control Commission is backing the idea of having a pilot dog park at the East Street softball complex.
The city's Office of Community Development has proposed the idea of using one of the fields there to test out a dog park. The city had started the process of securing funding and building a dog park but that is at least another year out. So for now, the city is looking to use the site that hasn't been used in some two years in the meantime.
"There are currently three fields that are entirely fenced in, one would be designated as a pilot site for a dog run, off-leash area. With minimal improvement, we feel we could get this ready for public use," said Parks and Open Space Manager Jim McGrath.
The idea came out of a meeting in December when a resident asked the Parks Commission to do more to control off-leash dogs at Kirvin Park. Kirvin is known as a place for dogs to roam free even though off-leash is against the city's rules. The city is now looking at ways to reduce the number of off-leash dogs not only there but in all parks.
"There is no question Kirvin is a popular spot for dog walking, a popular spot for taking your dog off leash," McGrath said. "We just want to make sure dogs are appropriately leashed and there are no conflicts between dog owners and other park patrons."
The East Street complex is one tool to help address that. McGrath said with fencing already in place, it would be relatively simple to give dog owners somewhere to take their furry friends.
McGrath said the complex would only need signage explaining the rules, the creation of a double-entry gate, seating, waste bags and trash containers.
"With minimal investment, we could get a dog park going at the East Street complex and help us understand the level of oversight and maintenance," McGrath said.
Not only would it give dog owners a place to go, but it would also give the city a chance to see the level of usage, find out from dog owners what they like and don't like, and start building the community that will ultimately be the ones to oversee and police the park. McGrath believes it can be ready for the spring.
The complex has gone unused for multiple years with varying levels of interest. The city released multiple requests for proposals but couldn't find a tenant. One of the particular issues there is that the concession building is condemned, making it difficult for a softball league to make the finances work.
McGrath said there is a level of interest in using the complex for athletics again and the city is now preparing to release another request for proposals to see if that will come to fruition. McGrath still intends to go forward with the pilot park and the softball league would use the remaining two fields.
The plan is to take 2 acres of land and create separate areas for small dogs and large dogs, mounds of land for dogs to run up and down, shade, decorative fire hydrants, water fountains, and a parking lot.
An ad hoc committee developed rules for the park, a management plan, and performed the assessment of potential locations — with the East Street complex being one location the group had ranked fourth in its preferred locations, citing concerns about the landfill and the aesthetics.
McGrath said the city will be applying for funds this April but the amount of work to be done will take some time before it could open.
"The end goal is not multiple years out but it could be a year plus out," McGrath said.
The Animal Control Commission supports the effort for both the pilot and the long-term dog park.
"The pilot dog park sounds like a great idea because you already have the fencing," Chairman John Reynolds said.
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