Duo Proposes New Dog Park for Either Lebanon or Enfield

Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Lebanon — Neighbors of the site of a proposed dog park on Route 4 raised concerns about traffic safety and impact to wildlife at an informational meeting Tuesday night, at which dog-owners in attendance and the project’s organizers stressed the need for a space in the Lebanon area where their pooches can play, leash-free.

Together, Larissa Pyer, of Lebanon, and Marcia Herrin, of Enfield, are pushing for a fenced-in dog park to be built in the Lebanon area. They both have submitted proposals for parks on municipal property to their respective municipalities to see which project has better prospects.

They told a crowd of about 15 people gathered at Lebanon Library on Tuesday night that dog-owners on the New Hampshire side of the Connecticut River would be well-served by a nearby alternative to Watson Dog Park in Hartford Village, which opened in 2008 and is the only dog park in the Upper Valley. The meeting followed one last month in Enfield, where Pyer said more than 30 people attended.

Lebanon resident Bill Stearns — known around Watson as “Milo’s dad,” in reference to his chihuahua-Jack Russell mix — said he enjoys the Hartford park but is in favor of a dog park either Lebanon or Enfield.

“The shame of it is for me, (Watson Dog Park) is a weekend trip,” said Stearns, who said the park is too far a drive to give Milo a lunch-hour romp on workdays.

He and other dog-owners in attendance on Tuesday spoke of the exercise and socialization that parks provide for dogs.

The Enfield site is a field adjacent to the Shaker Recreation Park on Route 4A. Herrin is scheduled to go before the Enfield Planning Commission tonight and Selectboard on Monday.

The preferred site in Lebanon is located on Route 4 at Fellows Hill Park, but a pair of alternative sites in that proposal include Baker’s Crossing, adjacent to Hardy Hill Road, and Bagley Field, which would require a footpath or small bridge to be built over the Mascoma River at the end of Spencer Street. Pyer said she picked those three sites on advice of Mark Goodwin of the city’s Planning Department.

Pyer said she has yet to hear back from the City Council, but hopes to be put on the agenda sometime in January, after budget season.

However, residents from three households abutting the preferred Fellows Hill site who attended Wednesday’s meeting said people drive too fast in that area — where Route 4 narrows from four lanes down to two east of Interstate 89 — and they worried that an increase in traffic turning in and out of that area would endanger drivers and dogs alike.

They pointed out that a similar proposal for a dog park at that site was shot down by the City Council in the mid-2000s. They like the idea of a dog park, they said. Just not there.

“I think it would be a disaster,” Bob DePetrillo, who has lived next to the proposed site for 40 years, said after the meeting.

Ken Hale has lived next to the proposed site with his wife Sandy for nearly 30 years.

“Our concerns are the same now that they were then,” Ken Hale said, citing traffic concerns and impacts to wildlife like deer and turkeys. “We’re not sure how a dog park, how that would all balance, how that would all mix. ... We don’t know all the ins and outs, but we know our neighborhood.”

Pyer and Herrin said the neighbors’ concerns are well-taken and could be fleshed out once the Lebanon City Council signals its interest level in the project.

The estimated construction cost of any park is about $50,000, Pyer and Herrin said, with the lion’s share of costs going to fencing and parking. Annual operating costs of up to $4,000 would go toward maintenance like snow plowing and trash pick-up, particularly animal waste.

The women are proposing a one-to-two-year agreement with either municipality, and for all costs to be funded by donations and fundraising, with upkeep overseen by volunteers, without cost to taxpayers.

Maggie Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@vnews.com or 603-727-3220.