Hyde Park state rep faces dogged battle over abandoned, decaying rec center in Stony Brook Reservation

For 40 minutes, puzzled newcomers at a meeting of the Dog Park Association of Southwest Boston tonight couldn't figure why DCR had abruptly abandoned work with the group to turn the decaying nine-acre Thompson Center in Stony Brook Reservation into Hyde Park's first dog park - to the point of refusing to even let group members see the consultant's plans the group had partially paid for.

Association leaders kept dancing around the question. Somebody, they said, had turned DCR Commissioner Leo Roy against them.

Then, at 7:39 p.m., a resident mentioned the name Scaccia.

It was as if a weight had been lifted off people's shoulders, at least of those who support the dog park, and they were finally free to complain that Angelo Scaccia, Hyde Park's long-running state representative, had not only somehow convinced DCR Commissioner Leo Roy that nobody in Hyde Park wanted a dog park but would refuse to even talk to them in person at local get togethers, let alone on the phone.

The association called the meeting in part to see if there was enough support in Hyde Park to more actively engage DCR and Scaccia beyond the nearly 1,000 signatures on an online petition and the yard signs now placed around Hyde Park.

Under the now secret plans paid for with $10,000 from the association and $20,000 from DCR, the association would, over a five-year or so period create a multi-use park that would feature not just unique woodland trails for dogs and their owners, but picnic areas, new parking and plenty of space for youth programs that could range from community-service projects to maintain the park to spaces for mural painting and musical performances.

The association initially wanted to work with city officials to build a dog park at Millennium Park in West Roxbury, but federal environmental officials put the kibosh on that because most of the park sits atop the former city landfill, which means no permanent structures, even fencing, can be erected, for fear of disrupting the clay that keeps rainwater from getting into the decades of trash buried there.

Association members began looking around and found the Thompson Center, initially built as a dedicated recreational facility for handicapped kids, but closed since the 1990s and allowed to fall apart when vandals weren't busy setting parts of it on fire and covering the rest in graffiti. By day, some people now use it to walk their dogs; by night, it becomes a handy location for drug users to shoot or light up, nearby residents say.

Both grizzled dog-park supporters and pro-dog newcomers said they couldn't wait for the new facilities, where their pets could get a chance to run free legally and without bothering people who somehow find their way to Stony Brook to enjoy the unique urban forest. Lara Sullivan of Roslindale, who has a collie puppie, said she would love a local place where she could bring her feisty pet. Sulivan and other dog owners said there's something about a dog park that fosters a sense of community - not just among people with something in common but down to yelling at the slobs who let their pets defecate without cleaning up after them.

Longtime association organizers implored the 40 people who attended tonight's meeting to call Roy and Scaccia to register their support for the idea - and to keep calling and going up to Scaccia in particular at local meetings, no matter how many times he refuses to return phone calls or even turns away from people he knows support the dog park.

Not all the people agreed, however. Hyde Park Neighborhood Association President Barbara Baxter, in fact, got into a battle with association President Karen Jones and Treasurer Cindy Laba over who would really pay for the dog park - and allowed as how she might have been the one to convince her friend Scaccia to try to kill the idea.

Baxter said she worried that taxpayers would have to pay for all the work required to build a dog park, despite repeated statements by Jones and Laba that that would never happen. Jones and Laba said DCR has made it clear it would not put any money into the project beyond the initial planning and said that association members would not only pay for the renovation but create a permanent fund to keep the new park up.

Baxter still said she didn't buy it.

Jones, who lives in West Roxbury, verbally threw her hands up. "I'm at a loss for how this neighborhood works," she said. People have been volunteering to get the first dog park in southern Boston for five years and the Thompson Center has turned into a local nexus for the area's opioid crisis. "I need you to tell me why you are lobbying Rep. Scaccia to not let us renovate this property," she said.

Laba, the founder and chief program officer at Beacon Academy in the Longwood Medical Area, had enough of the money argument as well. She told Baxter a key part of her job is raising money. "I can raise money. I raise money every day." And the other association officials also know how to raise money, she said.

Baxter and Jones even got into a disagreement over whether any dog-park association members ever volunteered for the neighborhood association's annual Neponset River cleanups.

One resident who lives near the Thompson Center said she worries about the extra traffic the dog park would mean - and about the disruption to the local wildlife, which she said includes deer, coyotes, turkeys and pheasants.

City Councilor Tim McCarthy said he's a strong supporter of the Thompson Center dog park and the proposals to bring youth programs there. He said he could even see enticing a "breakfast truck" to visit the park on weekend mornings, and to schedule visits from other food trucks the rest of the week. He said that, even in the worst case, in which the dog park fails and DCR just padlocks the area shut again, things would be no worse than they are today.

But because the reservation is owned by the state, it's really Scaccia's jurisdiction, he said. One resident asked McCarthy if he had spoken to Scaccia about the dog park - and if he had been as eloquent with the dean of the House of Representatives as he had just been with residents. "We've had brief conversations," he said, adding it might be time for another.

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    Comments

    This whole thing is so

    By on

    This whole thing is so bizarre. Honestly, if you feel the need to be that in-office-too-long representative, why play that card in such an obvious and asinine way?

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    Long Island Bridge fell exactly this way

    By on

    It's not so bizarre at all.

    Shenanigans like this is why the Long Island Bridge never got state funding for its repair.

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    Sadly

    Few people know or care about their State reps. Go ask ten people if they can name two apart from the majority leaders.

    Win once, win forever.

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    Bow Wow

    By on

    Yeah, leave it to the wildlife....Both natural & human. Sheesh....What a waste of a resource.
    Who does Angela Scaccia represent ? Bet you Tommy Menino would give him an earful..... But then I'm betting it'd be a waste of breathe since he's deaf to his constituent's wishes.

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    I don't have a dog, don't

    By on

    I don't have a dog, don't like dogs, honestly don't think people living in small city apartments are super qualified to have dogs, BUT:

    It would clear out a derelict and falling apart structure and remove the drugs/crime/unsavory elements. And it gives the Arboretum and Millennium park users more ammunition when entitled dog owners let their animals run wild in those places AGAINST POLICY and have them shit everywhere without cleaning it up.

    Sounds like a win/win for everybody, especially with the association putting a trust together.

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    Did you know that Great Danes

    By on

    Did you know that Great Danes are actually superb apartment dogs? As are many others. As long as you exercise and socialize your pet any dog is a fine apartment, house, condo dweller.

    I don't get the argument of "if you have a small apartment/live in the city" you shouldn't have a dog. I don't understand that logic; you could say the same thing about raising a family. That argument just doesn't make sense.

    And please stop saying "entitled dog owners." It's so divisive and won't get anything done. We aren't anymore entitled than you are - you just think that you don't act entitled. We are humans - we ALL act entitled.

    Also, people seem to forget that dog owners are also tax paying citizens. I don't mind funding playgrounds for kids, schools, and after school programs, etc. (and I don't use them) but I am tired of the pitchfork mentality against dog owners.

    Anyway, I'm glad you think it's a good idea but again; please stop with the entitlement BS.

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    entitled owners

    By on

    He was not saying all dog owners are entitled, just those who let their dogs off the leash in places that have policies that disallow it, like Arnold's Arboretum, where it is a constant issue. If the policy is "all dogs should be leashed" then leash your dog. Neither you nor your dog are special.

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    No where in my post did I say

    By on

    No where in my post did I say I was special. And thanks, my dog's dead but he was pretty special to me and my family.

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    All dogs are special.

    By on

    Anyone who has ever adopted a dog knows this already.

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    Kids don't usually shit all

    By on

    Kids don't usually shit all over sidewalks, and if they do, hopefully their parents are cleaning it up. If those parents aren't, they're just as entitled :) :)

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    If they did I hope parents

    By on

    If they did I hope parents would get them checked out!. But people (that includes parents) leave trash everywhere and I never hear anyone bitch and moan about that they way they do about dog owners. Sure there I see errant poops here and there but I pick it up just as I pick up trash that isn't mine. I'm sure there are a lot of ppl that do that.

    Seriously this "I hate dogs and their owners anywhere near anything public" is so beaten to death. So much for being inclusive for all tax paying citizens.

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    Right there with you

    By on

    and, as a non-doggo, if the proposal came with a parallel pledge for city resources to patrol nearby places where dogs are often seen (illegally) off-leash and write tickets, I'd be alongside the doggos fighting for the dog park.

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    Hyde park

    By on

    Are you familiar with this part of the city? Its primarily single family homes.

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    You should need detective skills

    By on

    to figure out if your elected representative is trying to undermine you. As to the head of the residents association, egads.

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    Government at its finest

    By on

    YEAH let's give all state reps a RAISE!

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    Can't blame the people from HP for being upset...

    By on

    when the proponents of the dog park are overwhelmingly residents of West Roxbury, Roslindale, and Milton. I'm sure they would rather this space be usedfor something that would benefit the residents of their neighborhood.

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    So it comes to this?

    By on

    One of your compatriots asked people last night to raise their hands if they lived in Hyde Park. I'd say more than half did - in a meeting where people seemed to try to outdo each other with how long they've lived in the neighborhood. The winner was a woman who said her family goes back several generations in Hyde Park - and she was a dog-park supporter.

    And the rest of the people seemed to be from Roslindale and West Roxbury, which, in case you haven't looked at a map recently, border not just Hyde Park but Stony Brook Reservation as well (in fact, until relatively recently, the BRA put all of Stony Brook in Roslindale).

    You do realize, I hope, that Scaccia is not just Hyde Park's state rep, and McCarthy is not just your city councilor. There are a number of us in Roslindale who get to vote (or not) for them as well.

    And for better or worse, Stony Brook Reservation is not Hyde Park's exclusive preserve. It's a state facility, which means my taxes go to pay for its (fairly minimal) upkeep as much as yours (I can look out my kitchen window and see Stony Brook). I'm not saying issues like traffic shouldn't be addressed, especially given how the roads in the park have become kind of major thoroughfares for people getting to and from places like Milton and Dedham, but, really, nobody in Hyde Park owns dogs?

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    My Favorite Part of the Meeting

    By on

    That was a fun moment at the meeting - the speaker clearly wanted to raise the "These folks aren't even from Hyde Park!" argument, yet 75% of the people in the room raised their hands since they were Hyde Park residents as well.

    Another detractor put forth a confusing argument along the lines of: "I see people walking through the Thompson Center area everyday, [so why does anything need to change?]". That makes a lot of sense, given that the area is fenced off, has "No Trespassing" signs posted, and is full of refuse.

    The pro dog park arguments are so much more compelling!

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    I have lived all my life in

    By on

    I have lived all my life in Hyde Park(56yrs) and have always owned a dog/ presently have 3 great dogs. This is the same for immediate 5 neighbors with total of 7 dogs. I think a dog park is a great idea , hoping that all the humans will be considerate of each other (parking , traffic and picking up after your pets.

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    I'm sure they would rather

    By on

    I'm sure they would rather this space be usedfor something that would benefit the residents of their neighborhood.

    Yeah a drug den is super useful for the neighborhood right now!!!!!!!

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    If they want something else...

    By on

    I'm sure they would rather this space be used for something that would benefit the residents of their neighborhood.

    Then why, in the past 20-odd years, haven't they gotten off their asses and made something of it themselves? Instead, crap all over the hard work the people of the dog park association have done, and the thousands of dollars city residents have contributed to move a dog park forward.

    Honestly, some of these Hyde Park residents need to get over themselves. Last I checked, West Roxbury and Roslindale were just as much part of the City of Boston as HP. So sick of this selfish, insular attitude.

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    McCarthy

    By on

    Thank you, Councilor McCarthy, for standing up for your constituents. Please lean on Rep. Scaccia to do the right thing here. This would be a big win for the community.

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    Good thing

    They kept any fences from being erected at Millennium Park. That would be horrible.

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    That came up

    By on

    The fences (and I'm guessing the playground equipment) were very, very carefully (read: expensively?) installed so as not to disrupt the function of the clay liner. McCarthy said all this explains why there aren't any baseball fields or permanent goal posts or anything like that at the park.

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    Timing

    They also were probably part of the initial design and build, meaning the expense wasn't as much as an addition would be

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    Dog park

    By on

    ANGELO MUST BE GETTING SOMETHING ON THE OTHER END. HE HAS NEVER BEEN CONFUSED WHAT;S GOOD FOR ANGELO

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    Scaccia isn't motivated

    By on

    I live in Anthony Scaccia's district and received a mailer from one of his 2 primary opponents; the other had a web presence so voters could see his stances on the issues; Scaccia had neither. Scaccia also had no opponent in the general.

    Scaccia won his primary with over 60% of only 3,269 votes.

    Why should Scaccia feel responsive to his constituents if he can comfortably beat his primary opponents without lifting a finger, and if no one bothers to challenge him in the general election?

    (Source: http://www.masslive.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/09/2016_massachusetts_st...)

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    Good point overall, but.

    By on

    Why challenge in the general election if nobody who isn't a democrat has a frozen dog turd's chance in hell of winning.

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    Why can't we compromise?????

    By on

    Scaccia won on his name ALONE. What has he even done for HP in the last few years? The Thompson Center is GROSS. I went walking around there with my dog and son in the fall and its a DISGRACE. Filthy, falling apart and a shame.

    Why can't we all compromise? It's a large space. Half for a FENCED IN (which are hard to find around here) and half for a street hockey rink (which kids in the area would love and also don't have) or something else for the community?

    Either way, something needs to be done. As if the drug addicts and creepers need YET ANOTHER place to make their own... Come on HP.

    And yes, I am a life long HP resident, with a dog... and I am upset I missed this meeting!!

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    Team Dog Park

    By on

    Building the dog park seems like a no brainer. The arguments against the Thompson Center renovation presented by those in the minority last night were barely cogent. Kudos to all the Hyde Park residents who attended (I'm from Roslindale myself) - keep up the good fight!

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    Scaccia

    By on

    Its long past time for Scaccia to retire.

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    Scaccia is totally unresponsive

    By on

    After being frustrated by his lack of availability and the difficulty of reaching him as a constituent, I enthusiastically supported his primary opponent Virak Uy. Come primary day, Uy signs were all over Hyde Park and Roslindale, yet the old guard still came out to support their own once again.

    I'm increasingly frustrated with Scaccia and also Mike Rush, neither of whom seem interested in feedback from their constituents.

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    Top two on the ballot

    If we can get the system changed where the top two candidates in the primaries end up on the ballot regardless of party, we might start solving this. Lots more people vote on election day vs. the primaries but then it's too late to make a choice.

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    Valentine's day is approaching

    Perhaps a bouquet of redolent canine love letters in festive red bags should be delivered to each offender's doorstep?

    What a bunch of power tripping gits. Makes me wonder if this Rep was one of the democracy defying anti pot power trippers, too.

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    Most likely

    By on

    His past voting record is definitely anti-cannabis, as is Mike Rush's.

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