Is a Cohasset Dog Park on the horizon? A needs study will decide

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According to some, Town Manager Mike Coughlin got fired over Morse’s K-9 Dog Erik, who is nonetheless, the most popular officer on the Cohasset Police Department.

The question is – can Town Officials survive Trish Morse’s desire for a dog park – a dog park Advisory Chair Peter Pescatore described as a solution looking for a problem?

There is funding available to build dog parks. According to Morse, up to 90 percent of a park’s design and installation could be paid for via the Stanton Foundation. It would be public/private partnerships, a dog park on Town land operated by a private group, much like the Senior Center and the Sailing Club. The Town would have to contribute 10 percent to the dog park, which could receive money from the Community Preservation Committee (CPC).

Senior and Morse, who do not own dogs, and who have visited various dog parks, noted that the dogs are extremely well-behaved in the parks they observed and the owners are very attentive. Both Senior and Morse also said that the presentation given last Wednesday was just the start of a conversation and not a done deal. Senior further described the dog park as a third-tier issue.

The problem is – there’s not much available town land. The field at Wheelwright Park is one possibility, but it’s almost a joke, as it backs up to 400 acres of walking trails that intertwine with White Farm. Myriad of dog owners walk their dogs off leash through those acres on a plethora of paths.

A dog park involves: fencing, shade, benches, wastebaskets, trash cans, water, a ton of rules and a fee. It is a cage, albeit, a larger cage. Dogs do best when they are moving forward, not standing with their owners, Selectman Karen Quigley said.

Quigley asked the audience how many people walk their dog every day – the audience was composed of mostly Red Gate Lane residents who live next to Wheelwright Park, many of whom have dogs and walk them several times a day. Quigley also asked if a “needs” questionnaire had been sent to dog owners. It had not.

Select Chair Diane Kennedy said she walked a dog until her dog passed away last year. Chris Senior said he used to have a dog. Trish Morse did not raise her hand.

Quigley said: “Part of having that dog is walking that dog. I don’t see a need for it. I have concerns for liability, upkeep. We have so many important, pressing issues facing our town government at this point. To divert resources seems unimportant to me. Walking dogs is healthy.”

Morse said well-run dog parks are private. The cost would be $35 a year. In order to use the dog park dogs would need to have vaccinations. She added that there are presently 700 plus licensed dogs in Cohasset and, it is thought, another 250 unregistered dogs.

Dog owners using the park would be issued a Fob after paying a fee.

Senior said the park would have to go to town meeting for a vote.

Select Chair Diane Kennedy suggested that the group do a needs assessment.

Selectman Martha Gjesteby noted that other than the town-owned field at Wheelwright Park only the Town Common was available. Gjesteby said: “This is a Town where everybody runs and walk and the dogs go, too.” She said she felt a dog park was not necessary.

Pescatore, a dog walker, said the town had a lot on its plate this year, saying the new Senior Center and a dog park would both pressure on the Dept. of Public Works on both ends. “Wheelwright Park, Wompatuck, Whitney Thayer, Great Brewster…there are trails everywhere.” He said he walks every day with two large Labrador. Mostly they like to run.”

Michelle Laney, a resident of Red Gate Lane abutting Wheelwright Park, and drafter of the petition against putting a dog park at the Wheelwright Park field, also noted places to walk, adding to Pescatore’s list these sites: Brass Kettle, Sandy Beach, Black Rock Beach, World’s End, Nantasket Beach, the Norris Reservation. “It’s a luxury to be able to walk freely in these places. I don’t like the idea of an enclosed area at all. It’s a well-intentioned idea, but unnecessary.”

Kennedy concluded: “We have to build a Town Hall before we build a dog park.”

Editor’s note: Around Christmas Day, Widow’s Walk Golf Club on the Driftway in Scituate allows dogs the run of the place through mid-March. Dogs from Marshfield, Norwell, Scituate, Cohasset and Hingham congregate there to run free. Even nicer: humans can partake of an excellent, inexpensive breakfast at the club’s restaurant after the walks -except for Christmas Day.

© Copyright 2014 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed
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