Last night, the Town of Reading held their first public dog park discussion forum. Presenting was Town Manager Fidel Maltez in conjunction with Prospect Street resident Steven Cool. Steven has been leading the charge for a dog park in Reading since last year and got his wish earlier this Summer when he formally made his pitch to the full Select Board. What transpired during that meeting also carried over into the dog park forum last night, grant money.
The specific dog park grant Steven and the Town were counting on though is suddenly ending in December of this year. The Stanton Foundation funds up to $25,000 for dog park design and up to $250,000 (90%) for construction. The Stanton Foundation has funded at least 47 dog parks to date in Massachusetts, including one in Chelsea that Fidel previously oversaw the creation of. With the opportunity for grant funding slipping away, the Select Board opted to start with a public forum first and see where things went from there. The requirements for the grant are to select a location and submit the application by Dec. 31, 2023. One minor detail, the property must be Town-Owned, AND committed at application. Which means, the public needs ample time to weigh in on any locations and concerns.
A brief look at dog statistics mentioned during the forum are as follows:
- Reading households: Over 10,155 *
- Reading households with dogs: Over 2,823 * (3,000-3,100?)
- Registered and known unregistered dogs: Over 3,332 *
- Registered: 2,605 * / Unregistered: 727 *
- Additional unregistered dogs (est.): 100-200?
- *Latest figures per Reading Town Clerk, 7/20/2023.
Steven and Fidel then discussed the benefits of having a dog park and the surrounding towns that currently do (Billerica, Burlington and Danvers). They then highlighted the possible locations in Reading that may fit the bill: Symonds Way, Strout Avenue, Leach Park, Oakland Road and Others. There were mixed feelings though from the public and Select Board members about each site. Concerns raised focused on timing, legal issues (regarding the Memorial Park deed restriction as well as the town’s liability if an incident occurs) and the destruction of trees or displacement of animals in the various proposed locations.
Symonds Way – Town owned space on Symonds Way near Ice Arena
- Pros: Can be part of a larger redevelopment, Natural setting & Available Parking
- Cons: Distance from center of Town, Limited Pedestrian Access & Noise from Gun Range
Strout Avenue – Town-owned open space on Strout Avenue
- Pros: Area is currently used by dog owners, Abuts Town Forest & Can have plenty of parking
- Cons: Distance from center of Town & Limited Pedestrian Access
Leach Park – Town owned open space at Leach Park
- Pros: It’s available & Walking distance to Main Street
- Cons: High-traffic intersection, Difficult pedestrian access, Limited parking area & Water & sewer infrastructure already exist in this location
Oakland Road – Town-owned area on Oakland Road
- Pros: Parking is generally available outside of school hours & Close to other recreation facilities
- Cons: Lots of site work would be needed & Abutters have expressed concern over traffic
Others – These areas have been discussed but problematic for this use
Memorial Park, Washington Park, Sturges Park, Castine Field, Auburn Street Water Tank Area & Hunt Park (area between playground and baseball).
After the lengthy discussion on the proposed locations was winding down, Conservation Administrator Chuck Tirone asked why Hunt Park was not at the top of the list? He explained that it would check all the boxes required, to which Steven Cool responded by mentioning that he only learned about the site the other day and he thinks that it looks promising. An “unofficial pulse” from around the room and on Zoom yielded little to no pushback on that site as opposed to the others, apart from checking with the abutters and the Little League that uses the baseball field there.
And with that, a meeting that started off with more questions than answers ended anti-climatically with Steven and Chuck setting a date to walk the “newly” found location and report back to the Town Manager and Select Board. In the end, depending on the location, the Select Board and Conservation Commission have the final say on whether or not to move forward. In the instance of Hunt Park, the proposed area (black shaded rectangle above) directly abuts conservation land to the South.
The dog park forum replay can be viewed on RCTV via the video below.