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Enfield Dog Park Gets Money it Needs

Enfield — Animal lovers hoping to build a dog park along Route 4A have won enough nonprofit and corporate financial backing to make their canine haven a reality.

The Mascoma Valley Dog Park Supporters received a $25,000 corporate grant to build a dog park in Enfield, the group announced Thursday. Along with a matching $25,000 grant from the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation, the park’s organizers are now looking forward to building the facility.

Larissa Pyer, co-founder and treasurer of the Mascoma Valley Dog Park Supporters, said she was excited by the fundraising success and looks forward to bringing her dogs to the new park when it is completed. Currently, the only Upper Valley dog park is the popular Watson Dog Park on Maple Street in Hartford, although a group in Windsor is also seeking funding for a dog park in that area.

“I have two beagles, Annie and Blue, both rescues,” Pyer said. “We go to the dog park over in Hartford so much, and they both really love it. ... It will be great to socialize them with other dogs, let them off the leash to run. One more option of a place to go with your dog is really awesome.”

Pet Safe, which sells products for pets, awarded Enfield $25,000 for winning the web-based “Bark from Your Heart” contest. The contest measured the percentage of online votes against the population of the city. Enfield, which has a population of 4,600, received 16,769 votes.

“We’ve been voting every day from June till the end of July,” said Marcia Herrin, president of the dog supporters group. “People have told me stories about being on vacation in the Caribbean, trying to get on the Internet to vote. It was hard to get around all the computer bugs, but no one gave up.”

The park has been in the planning stages for a while. In March, the town of Enfield held a non-binding resolution on the dog park to get a sense of public opinion on the project. According to Steve Schneider, Enfield’s town manager, the project was “overwhelmingly supported.”

Enfield is donating a vacant lot located on Route 4A by Shaker Recreation Park near Sloane Street for the project. No tax dollars will be used to build or maintain the park.

“(The Dog Park) Supporters have been committed all along that this project will have no impact on the tax rate, no tax dollars now or in the future,” Schneider said. “The biggest donation that the town is making is the use of the property.”

The next step for the nonprofit will be to present its plans for the site to the Enfield Selectboard and to the Planning Board.

“They can start construction as soon as they get Planning Board approval,” Schneider said. “It shouldn’t take too long, because we’re not talking about major alterations to the site itself.”

Herrin agreed that construction would not be difficult.

“We’re hoping to break ground in the fall,” Herrin said. “Dog parks aren’t a big deal to build — it’s just a fence, some sort of shelter from sun, containers designed for dealing with dog waste, and a parking lot. We want to preserve the natural character of that land.”

Scott Osgood, the town planner, said that the group would have to address neighbors’ concerns.

“There is concern about how it’s going to be maintained and kept up, but we’ve had strong assurances from the group that they will take care of it very strictly,” he said. “There are also some concerns about headlights and noise, but since it’s going to be in the middle of the site, that will be less of a problem.

“There will probably be closing hours and closing dates, so they don’t have to maintain it in the winter months.”

Pyer said she was grateful for all the support the group had received from the Byrne Foundation and from the town.

“We couldn’t have done it without a wide network of support and people voting for us, and remembering to do that consistently,” she said. “It clearly paid off. Hopefully by this time next year we will have a fully functional dog park.”

The other winners include Hattiesburg, Mississippi; Port Chester, New York; and Tehachapi, California. Each town was awarded $25,000 for their dog park. The winner of the grand prize was Waverly, Iowa, which won $100,000.

Lauren Bender can be reached at lbender@vnews.com .