Amherst plans for potential dog park

By Jacqueline Hayes

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

Amherst might soon be getting its very own dog park in the coming year. The dream of a dog park in the town has been in the works for over two years, but conversations regarding any planning shut down following the death of Town Manager John Musante in 2015. Since then, town officials and residents have been rebuilding their morale for this project long in the works.

Town Moderator Jim Pistrang oversaw the March 30 meeting at Amherst Town Hall in which the topic was brought up, receiving positive reception by nearly everyone in attendance.

According to Pistrang, the biggest challenge foreseen by town officials is the location. The space must meet zoning and planning standards, in addition to occupying enough land for a parking lot and the park itself.

Pistrang emphasized that he hopes this park will be a great addition to the town.

“The goal is for this to be a positive attribute to the community, meaning we want to make sure the land we occupy for the park won’t infringe upon any other space already occupied by the community, such as a playground or playing field,” he said.

The second biggest challenge town officials foresee with the potential park is funding. However, Pistrang was confident that both the monetary and geographical obstacles faced for the park are not at all insurmountable.

The steps to come for the park’s development include assembling a committee solely dedicated to the strategic planning and development of the project.

Anyone interested in becoming a member of this committee has to fill out a Citizen’s Activity Form on the town website before April 14. From those who fill out the form, the town manager will hold interviews for the applicants, and from this pool will select the committee which will work on funding, zoning, planning, development and design of the park, according to Pistrang. He made clear any students from UMass or the other four local colleges are welcome to apply.

Sophomore Meg Sullivan, an animal science major who trains service dogs for other UMass students in need of one, is keen on the idea of a dog park a close walk from campus.

“As far as I know there are only a few other dog parks in the area but they are all a 30 minute-plus drive away,” Sullivan said. “I haven’t been able to take my puppy to any parks yet as she’s too young, but it would absolutely be something I would look forward to in the future.”

Sullivan said that the park would “make it much easier for students on campus with service dogs, as well as those training them, to socialize their dogs and get in some exercise for them.”

“There aren’t many fenced in places around here that we can bring our dogs to which would allow them to freely run around and play without a leash,” she added.

“As long as the zoning and fencing is done correctly to ensure all the animals’ safety, then I am for sure, 100 percent on board with it,” said Animal Welfare Officer Carol Hepburn, who lives in Amherst.

Hepburn said she would be on the committee which would primarily oversee this project and its funding and development if the park were to be constructed.

Jackie Hayes can be reached at [email protected]