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Prairie’s Owner Seeks Companions Closer to Home

Marcia Herrin, of Enfield, with Prairie, her 1-year-old miniature Australian shepherd. Herrin is proposing a new dog park on town-owned land off Route 4. (Photograph courtesy of Marcia Herrin)

Marcia Herrin, of Enfield, with Prairie, her 1-year-old miniature Australian shepherd. Herrin is proposing a new dog park on town-owned land off Route 4. (Photograph courtesy of Marcia Herrin)

Enfield — Prairie loves going to Watson Dog Park in Hartford. The 1-year-old miniature Australian shepherd has a yard to run around in at her Enfield home, but she doesn’t live with any canine companions. That’s what the dog park is for.

Prairie’s owner, Marcia Herrin, wants her dog to have a gathering place for friends a little closer to home, and so she has proposed turning a parcel of town-owned land into a park where dogs and their owners can socialize instead of making the trek to Watson, now the Upper Valley’s only dog park.

“It really is a wonderful resource for them,” said Herrin. “There are a lot of dogs here. You wouldn’t believe how far people drive for the Hartford dog park.”

Herrin heard about Watson Dog Park shortly after Prairie (short for Prairie Home Companion, the radio program), joined her family in January. She wanted a venue where Prairie could socialize with other dogs, a key part of the training process. “I was just amazed, and we have been going every week since,” Herrin said.

The dog park wasn’t only about introducing Prairie to other dogs, as Herrin soon discovered. “What I didn’t expect was (for) it to be such a community-building experience,” she said.

“I have lived in Enfield for 25 years and want to give something back to my town that would help build a sense of community.”

It’s a community Herrin hopes to build in Enfield, which at last count was home to 921 registered dogs.

An organizational meeting will be held on Thursday, at 7 p.m., at the Enfield Community Building for those interested in creating what Herrin suggests could be called the Mascoma Valley Dog Park.

“If the community wants it, I’m good to go,” Herrin said. “It really would be a community effort.”

Herrin has identified a spot on Route 4A that could work for the park. “There happens to be an empty field just south and adjacent to the ballfields,” she said. “It’s a gorgeous spot.”

Herrin attended a Selectboard meeting in July and has also met with Enfield Town Planner Scott Osgood to walk the property.

If a dog park is something people in town want, Osgood said, it’s something the town should consider.

“It does have the space and a few challenges,” Osgood said of the spot near the ballfields. For one, the soil would need to be evaluated to see if it can withstand the heavy foot and animal traffic. Parking also must be considered.

Herrin said the proposed park would be volunteer-funded and run, like Watson Dog Park, and would not cost Enfield taxpayers anything. Based on research, as well as conversations with Beth Reed, chairwoman for Watson Dog Park, Herrin estimates that $50,000 would be needed to build and open the park.

“The biggest ticket item is a dog-proof fence,” Herrin said. “It’s absolutely key.”

Reed said the yearly operating budget for Watson Dog Park is $3,000-$4,000, which includes snow removal and supplies to take care of waste disposal, which has to be done twice a week. “We’ve been very lucky,” Reed said.

“Community members have been very generous and we’ve never failed to make our budget.”

Volunteers help with fundraising events, as well as maintaining the property.

Herrin said that, if the plans go through, Enfield could have the same kind of asset for dog owners, and Prairie could have a place to play a little closer to home.

“She’s the inspiration for this, whether she appreciates it or not,” Herrin said.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3305.

CORRECTION

A proposed dog park in Enfield would be located on Route 4A on a parcel that abuts some residences on Sloan Road. The location and neighborhood were incorrectly described in an earlier version of this story.