HOW WE GOT HERE
A year and a half ago, after watching a Nextdoor social media conversation between park goers and dog owners, a group of concerned dog-lovers decided that it was high time for a place in Braintree where dog owners could legally bring their dogs to play. Building a dog park seemed like a perfect solution to this problem, thus we created the Braintree Dog Park Association, which has since become a certified 501(c)3 Nonprofit organization. We began by contacting other dog park groups for best practices advice and hosting public meetings to discuss this project with the community to prepare ourselves to answer the tough questions sure to come up along the way.
At our very first public meeting, we were advised by Braintree Councilman Sean Powers to reach out to Mayor Sullivan and his team, since building a dog park in town has been one item that Mayor Sullivan has repeatedly expressed interest. Mayor Sullivan was enthusiastic about our efforts. It was amazing for us to begin this venture with the full support of his office behind us; We know of other local town dog park teams who were not as lucky and had to spend years getting their town leadership on board.
Around the inception of our committee, we identified a grant from an organization called the Stanton Foundation that pays up to $250k to build dog parks in Massachusetts towns, so we knew right away that the bulk of this park would not have to come out of the pockets of taxpayers. Coupled with the $50k from the Massachusetts FY2019 State Budget that Rep. Mark Cusack has secured for construction of a dog park in Braintree and a potential grant from the Braintree Community Preservation Committee Funds, which this project qualifies for, it looks like we will be all set for funding once we have determined a location and are able to apply for the grants. It is important to note that no grants can be applied for until the location of the park has been solidified.
In July 2017, we began coordinating with Mayor Sullivan’s Office to find a location for this park that fits our physical needs, as well as the zoning and other requirements dictated by the Stanton Foundation (for the grant money) and the American Kennel Club. Our location must be:
At least 1.5 acres of space (1 acre for large dog play area, 0.5 acres for the small dog play area)
Non-Residential with few (if any) abutting neighbors
Zoned as Open Recreational Space to eliminate liability to the town
Equipped with water and electricity
Adequate parking areas
Not impinging on wetlands
Bathroom access is a plus, but not a requirement
After months spent studying zoning and wetland maps of the town with the Mayor's team and vetting/ruling out 11 different locations around Braintree, we identified Pond Meadow as the best potential spot.
In January 2018, we were asked to present our project to the Pond Meadow Board at an exploratory meeting to see if they would allow the dog park to be built on Pond Meadow grounds. We returned to visit them again in April 2018 to answer some questions they had regarding the project. They informed us that since Pond Meadow is jointly owned by Braintree and Weymouth both towns must agree before they can consider a vote. They requested to have both Town Councils send letters asking them to consider placing the dog park within the Pond Meadow so they can formally take up the proposal.
Before we could present to the Town Councils, we needed to get Mayor Hedlund on board with our plan since he had not yet been approached about the matter. Mayor Sullivan reached out to him to tell him about our project. We then conducted several site surveys of the proposed area to find the best spot with both Mayors, their teams, several Pond Meadow Board Members, the Pond Meadow Park Rangers, the dog officers from both towns and the Braintree Conservation Planner.
Simultaneously, we were conducting more research, contacting the Dog Officers from other local towns that had dog parks to determine their perceptions regarding the benefits (reduction in drug crime for one location, a safe place for dogs to play, redirecting dogs from frequenting other local parks) and the frequency of serious incidents (no notable issues, all issues are handled between dog owners). We also discussed this project with the Braintree and Weymouth Dog Officers, since they are the ones that will be responsible for patrolling the park. They were both very supportive of the idea.
As spring progressed into summer, Mayor Sullivan's office brought to our attention that the Braintree Town Forest was an alternative spot that would require less hoops to obtain approval, so we began looking into the viability of that location as well. At the end of the summer, the Braintree Conservation Planner and our team went out to scout both locations to physically ensure that we would not be encroaching on wetlands and determined that both locations could work for our needs.
With two potential locations in mind, Mayor Sullivan's office asked for us to make a formal recommendation regarding which we prefer as an organization. At our October 2018 Members Meeting, we drew up a pros/cons list for both locations and discussed it with the group to see where everyone stood. Andrew Marron, the Constituent Services Representative from Mayor Sullivan’s office, was at our meeting to take our feedback back to Town Hall. He asked us to write a formal recommendation letter for Mayor Sullivan. We submitted the letter a week later recommending the park be placed in the initial location identified in Pond Meadow, as the established infrastructure (bathrooms, electricity, water lines, parking lots), safety (video cameras, foot traffic) and ease of access for construction/maintenance are all huge benefits to that spot. Obviously, the Town Forest is still a viable alternative should things not progress as we hope. Read our official recommendation letter here.
Currently, we are back to needing the Town Councils to send letters of recommendation to the Pond Meadow Board before we can begin applying for the park grants. On November 7, 2018, the Braintree Town Council unanimously voted to support the Pond Meadow dog park location. We are hoping to be scheduled to go before the Weymouth Town Council soon and will then be able to present to the Pond Meadow Board again for their final approval.
We look forward to working together with the Braintree and Weymouth Town Councils, the Pond Meadow Board and the offices of Mayors Sullivan and Hedlund to make this dog park a reality.