Enfield Board Backs Dog Park

Saturday, April 19, 2014
Enfield — Mascoma-area residents and their pooches could be frolicking in a dog park on Route 4A before the end of the year.

The Enfield Selectboard earlier this month gave a thumbs-up to the Mascoma Valley Dog Park Supporters, a group of residents pushing for a regional dog park, to continue pursuing a site adjacent to the Shaker Recreation Park.

“It’s huge,” said Enfield resident Marcia Herrin, the group’s co-chairwoman, of the Selectboard’s approval. “We’ve been working since last summer on receiving and deserving this blessing, and it’s been a really wonderful process.”

The supporters’ efforts will continue with an organizational meeting and membership drive kick-off on Monday at 7 p.m. in the Enfield Community Building.

Hurdles remain: The group now must develop a site plan, gain approval from the town Planning Board, sign a lease agreement with the town, and raise at least $50,000 in donations to get the project off the ground through events and membership fees, which will be $20 per year.

Herrin said workers could break ground on Route 4A by the fall, but she cautioned that any construction time-line will depend on the success of a fundraising campaign.

“The truth is we have no idea (when the park will open),” Herrin said. “We’ve been very careful about not raising any substantial amount of money because we didn’t want to ask people for money (when) we didn’t have permission to build. ... The dream would be to raise the funds and we’re ready to break ground this fall, that’s possible, and if not fall of course it would be next spring, and I’d be thrilled with either one of those.”

The town is not contributing any money to the project, and there will be no effect on the tax rate.

Despite the work ahead, Herrin said the April 7 Selectboard meeting was a turning point. Up until then, supporters had been working toward earning approval in either Enfield or Lebanon; now, she said, it’s “action time.”

Enfield Selectman John Kluge said in an email that the Selectboard voted to allow supporters to go ahead with the park after Enfield voters gave “resounding” support in a non-binding voice vote during Town Meeting.

“It is our perception that there is significant support for this project in town and that it will not have an adverse impact on our insurance rates; also, we are requiring that the property be returned to other use if so needed by the town,” Kluge said.

Herrin said the group is responding to concerns of some abutters and recommendations of the Selectboard by planning to build the dog park in a more northerly area of the two-acre parcel, farther away from some properties on the southern border.

Additionally, instead of building a new parking lot, they now plan to expand one currently used for softball fields.

Larissa Pyer, the group’s co-chairwoman from Lebanon, said the organization is excited about the Enfield location because, for many Lebanon residents, it will be closer than the Upper Valley’s only other dog park along Route 14 in Hartford.

As supporters focus their immediate energies on the Enfield location, they continue long-term goals of a dog park in Lebanon, said Pyer, who’s had ongoing discussions with the city’s Recreation & Parks department.

Instead of seeking out one location in particular, she said the group hopes to partner with the parks department on one of several possible future developments in the next 3-5 years.

At that point, she said, hopefully the Enfield location would be running smoothly and the organization could play a role in both locations.

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