Kate Olson and Edie Fruscione propose a dog park to selectmen. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

Dog Park Committee Pawsed by Selectmen; Location is Still Undecided

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Supporters of the proposed dog park spill over into the back of Town Hall's meeting room. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

Supporters of the proposed dog park spill over into the back of Town Hall’s meeting room. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

First choice was Graniteville Ball Field off River Street. Second choice was 2 acres off Farmer Way. Third choice was a parcel near Nabnasset School off Plain Road.

The Westford Dog Park Committee had done its research and members were ready to get the project off the ground. Hanging in the balance was a Stanton Foundation Dog Park Grant application that would fund the construction. The committee had targeted option 2  — Farmer Way — and just needed selectmen’s sanction.

“We went through every single piece of land in town and this is where we are,” said Dog Park Co-Chairman Edie Fruscione.

But when Fruscione and Co-Chairman Kate Olson appeared before selectmen on July 11, the board members suggested revisiting the first option. Selectmen expressed a desire to ensure the park and the parking area would accommodate all who would want to use it.

“I just want to make sure we don’t have a situation where we build something that is too small and you can’t park and you can’t put the dog inside,” said Selectman Scott Hazelton.

Ram Bhatt of Unicorn Drive voices his concerns about the proposed dog park on Farmer Way which would abut his property. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

Ram Bhatt of Unicorn Drive voices his concerns about the proposed dog park on Farmer Way which would abut his property. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

Fruscione said while the Graniteville Ball Field – a 31 acre parcel as compared to 7.8 acres on Farmer Way — had been the first preference of the committee members, she had been told by a representative of the Recreation Department it was off limits. Fruscione didn’t identify the Recreation representative, and no one in the department could immediately be reached for comment.

“No uncertain terms,” said Fruscione said of the Recreation Department’s directive.

So then Fruscione and Olson turned their attention to the Farmer Way parcel and were anxious for selectmen’s approval so they could submit the grant application.

But Hazelton slowed things down, calling for a study of how many cars the location could handle.

Selectman Mark Kost agreed with Hazelton.

“I’m concerned that this piece of land is too small relative to what you think you’re going to have happen there,” said Kost.

Kost pointed to the 468 “friends” on the Westford Dog Park Facebook page and said he suspects the number doesn’t include additional people and their dogs – many of whom may be unaware of the plan in place or that a Facebook page exists. Selectmen unanimously voted to meet with members of the Recreation Commission to reconsider the parcel at the Graniteville Ball Field. Selectmen Andrea Peraner-Sweet and Tom Clay were absent from the meeting.

Selectmen are also planning to meet with the School Committee to seek its approval of the Farmer Way location which is located on a parcel containing the Stony Brook School.

The next step is for Fruscione and Olson to appear before the Community Preservation Committee to apply for the $25,000 needed to qualify for the grant. The Stanton Foundation requires that a host community provide 10 percent before it covers the remaining 90 percent of design and construction costs, noted Olson. The maximum non-competitive grant is $250,000. But, stated Fruscione, it’s impossible to say what the park will cost to construct, until the committee and selectmen settle on a specific parcel.

The Stanton Foundation supports the development of enclosed dog parks in Massachusetts cities and towns. It awards 10 grants per year on a rolling basis.  As of July 11, three grants remain, according to the foundation’s website. Once all 10 grants are awarded the application process closes until Jan. 1.

“Time is somewhat of the essence,” said Fruscione.

Update – The section on how much the Stanton Foundation awards was revised on July 15.