State proposes turning nearly a third of Boston's only large forest into a woodsy dog park

DCR Commissioner Leo Roy tonight unveiled a proposal to set aside all of Stony Brook Reservation west of Enneking Parkway - 140 acres of the 475-acre forest - for a dog park that would feature about a three-acre area of fenced-in play space and several miles of trails through the woods where owners could let their dogs roam free.

"It's 140 acres in the city of Boston, that's pretty incredible," Roy enthused to a crowd of about 75, after first shocking residents by saying the reason DCR would abandon plans to rehab the old Thompson Center along West Smithfield Road into a park that could serve both dog owners and others was because of a law, passed in 1967, that seems to forbid the spending of any money on the Thompson Center except to support recreational uses for kids with disabilities. The center has been closed for close to two decades.

Under the proposal created by a landscaping design firm hired by DCR, all the land between from Enneking Parkway on the east and West Boundary Road on the west and from Washington Street in the north to Dedham Parkway in the south would go to the dogs.

A small parking lot and a grassy area across from Turtle Pond - now used by the MWRA to store equipment for its project - would be turned into a parking lot with some 30 parking spaces and would be the entrance for the fenced-in part. A smaller parking lot on Dedham Parkway would let dog owners and their pets get into the more wild trails from the south, although they could also access the trails from the Enneking Parkway lot.

Roy said this would create the first dog park in Boston's southern half.

Association members demanded to know why Roy was only now telling them about the 1967 law, when they'd been working with DCR for five years on a Thompson Center plan.

"We just became aware of [the law]," Roy said. One resident asked how DCR had become aware of the law. "We heard it from the legislative delegation," he said.

Roy did not get more specific, but the only local legislator who has ever expressed any negative feelings about the Thompson Center proposal is state Rep. Angelo Scaccia (D-Hyde Park) - who has been fighting the plans to end the Thompson Center's current role as a feces-laden shooting gallery for the more mobile local drug addicts.

Neither Scaccia nor any other elected official attended tonight's meeting at the Hyde Park municipal building, although he and several city councilors did send aides.

Association President Karen Jones of West Roxbury said the Thompson Center proposal would be far better suited for senior citizens and residents with disabilities and said the association's plans include rehabbing its building for a variety of uses.

She vowed to fight to override the 1967 law, if it really wasn't made moot by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, and pleaded with Roy to work with her group - which has already sunk $10,000 into plans for the Thompson Center - at DCR's encouragement - and which she said would prove a potent public/private partnership to build out a dog park there.

Plus, building a dog park right along Enneking Parkway could prove a disaster, she said - either a dog would run out into to the road and get killed by a speeding car, or a speeding motorist would swerve to avoid a dog and drive into a tree, she said.

Roy said residents should consider that overriding legislation could take several years, but said if they really wanted to try that, he would encourage them to talk to their legislators about - which drew the evening's only laugh, among residents who collected 1,000 signatures on a petition pleading with Scaccia to meet with them, which he has not.

Roy acknowledged his proposal could take several years as well, in part because DCR can't even do much surveying on the land until after the MWRA finishes its water-main project through Stony Brook Reservation, which could take another 18 months.

Residents, some of whom did favor the 140-acre proposal, questioned why and how the state could spend money on a dog park in a different part of the reservation when it would still have to clean up the Thompson Center, which they said is currently a blight on the area.

"I just don't understand how bureaucrats think," resident Joseph Smith said. Another resident said she did not understand how the state could be thinking about spending money on a dog park when its facilities for people - such as the swimming pool - are already substandard.

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    Here's the act in question

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    Chap. 750. An Act directing the metropolitan district commission to construct a health, recreation and bathing pool facility, and a play area, for handicapped children on land in the stony brook reservation in the hyde park district of the city of boston and designating the same as the john f. thompson memorial park.

    Be it enacted, etc., as follows:

    The metropolitan district commission is hereby authorized and directed to construct and maintain a health, recreation and bathing pool facility, and a play area, for handicapped children, on land in the Stony Brook reservation in the Hyde Park district of the city of Boston, which shall be designated and known as the John F. Thompson Memorial Park in memory of Representative John F. Thompson, former speaker of the house of representatives. For the purposes of this act, said commission may expend such sums as may be appropriated therefor.

    Approved November 21, 1967.

    Source.

    H/t Jennie Mac.

    "Maintain"

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    The law says they must maintain it. The DCR isn't maintaining it. That's the violation, and long standing too. So the DCR should be working on the repeal, especially if they got sued (or threatened with it).

    So, how hard is it to get the

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    So, how hard is it to get the law changed? The state drafted and passed a law banning upskirt photos in less than two days.

    Normally, it should be a piece of cake

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    But the way Roy danced all around the issue of how he found out about this law nobody remembered shows the problem: For whatever reasons, and I'm sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that one of his friends lives across from the Thompson Center and has publicly opposed the dog park, Angelo Scaccia will do everything he can to block any effort to fix it up. He's the longest serving member of the House, this is his district and nobody is going to fight him on this and he will win. He would fit right in with those elected officials down South going out of their way to avoid meeting with constituents - it's really pitiful they thought the only way to get him to talk to them was a petition (and even with 1,000 signatures, he still won't).

    Arrgh, I've already apologized to one person for completely abandoning my reportorial reserve on this after the meeting last night (not only am I a regular Stony Brook visitor, I'm also one of Scaccia's alleged constituents).

    Change the law!

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    Not hard at all to repeal a law. I worked on the upskirting law in the state legislature which took only 2 days - and that was a general law, much bigger deal and broader implications. Repealing an antiquated session law would be a piece of cake. Problem is, it needs a sponsor.

    An interesting proposal

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    Giving over the part of the reservation that is further away from the pond and brook to dog (and those who like/tolerate them) is interesting.

    By the way, I just put 2 and 2 together with the legislative stonewalling. Would any of you know what issue Rep. Scaccia is the most interested in? Much like the archives folk, I'll answer later.

    You mean ...

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    Aside from doing every thing he could to stop Wegmans from getting a liquor license in Westwood, a town nowhere near his district, back in the day?

    He's done a lot on mental health issues. And he was a big library proponent (was on the BPL board of trustees until he had a falling out with Menino about something). And he refuses to talk to the press - and apparently a large segment of his constituency.

    Shoot

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    I thought it was people who are developmentally challenged, but I was wrong, it is the mentally ill. The developmentally challenged thing would dovetail nicely with the Thompson Center, which does predate him.

    Wegmans was politics pure and simple. A favor to his friends the Roches. I mean, Menino did a solid for the owners of Sullivan's Pharmacy by scaring Brooks away from Roslindale Square back in the day, and he even bragged about it in his book, so I guess that is cricket.

    Cognitive decline

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    I was on a food judging panel with him about 18 years ago and (to me) he showed signs of early dementia. I'm sure it hasn't gotten any better in 2 decades. I think he doesn't meet with people because they would be shocked at his mental state.

    That is a very serious allegation

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    If true, the question is who is doing the work to stop the park? If someone is incapacitated, then they're not going to be doing much proactive.

    out with the old...

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    Time for him to retire and get out! What in God's name could be his reasoning for not allowing anyone to fix up the dump known as the Thompson Center? Bet if it was in Readville.... he would have been all over it.

    Time to move to Boca, Angelo. I'll help you pack.

    Generating

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    funds in order to pay the fines levied against him by the ethics board?

    Wow! That's quite a turn of events.

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    Those 140 acres are about the only part of Stony Brook that I haven't been in, with the caveat of it being sight unseen and trails untrodden by me, sounds good.

    I thought that was a pretty hilly area. But from the presentation here, there is an accessible walk and accessible walk loop so must be flat enough for fenced in dog play areas.

    Speaking of accessible, doesn't the ADA require that all facilities be accessible to all? Is it still legal to have separate-but-equal faculties for the disabled? Is this mysterious "legislative delegation" planning to reopen the Thompson Center as separate-but-equal facilities for disabled children? Accessible playgrounds and facilities are wonderful things (and Stony Brook has them). What does the "legislative delegation" have against them?

    Seems like we're looking at another 20 years of the Thompson Center decaying into the ground. And the vandals and druggies partying hardy there.

    So when the DCR spent $20,000 of the taxpayers money (and $10,000 of the Association's money) on a design study for turning the Thompson Center into dog park, they didn't even check into the history, details, and laws of the Center? And this "legislative delegation", which probably knew about the plans for a plan since it was announced, didn't bother to tell the DCR about this law and thus save the taxpayers' money?

    Like I said - Wow!

    Yes, ADA came up

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    In the form of two women who have some mobility issues who said they were concerned about that.

    Here's another issue to be concerned about: If you put a 30-space parking lot right across the parkway from the pond, people who want to spend some time on the dock (whether for fishing or hanging out or, shhh, swimming) are going to park there and cross the road. And some of them are going to get slammed into by speeding cars.

    hmmm

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    More cars/traffic or junkies leaving needles all around?

    I'll take my chances with the cars.

    Anyone can file legislation

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    Anyone can file legislation in the state legislature. You dont need a sponsor but from a practical point if you dont have a sponsor the legislation wont pass.

    Remember Scaccia is not the only legislator to represent Hyde Park. Both Linda Dorcena Forry and Sonia Chang Dias represent parts of Hyde Park in the Senate and any legislator can file the legislation s/he doesnt have to represent Hyde Park to file it.

    I agree Scaccia should be replaced but few seem to want to run against him. I believe Scaccia is completely worthless, he rarely attends anything in the community and when something needs to be filed by a state rep have had to go to other state reps.

    Another possibility would be to file for a writ of mandamus against Commissioner Roy. Such would require the court to determine ch 750 of the acts and resolves of 1967 is valid which could be much quicker then the legislature. If the Commissioner made any promise to the dog park committee which they relied on to their detriment for example spending $10,000 such could be enforced assuming the law is declared void or invalid

    Ch. 750 of the acts and resolves of 1967 not only does not prohibit the dog park but is outdated. If it were a charitable trust would be subject to change under the doctrines of cy pres and equitable deviation. Since it is legislation it should be eliminated as the legislature has done with other outdated laws.

    The law does not prohibit a dog park or any other use, it directs the MDC to construct a facility and play area for handicapped children but no where does it say that the land should only be for a facility and play area for handicapped children

    The MDC no longer exists so any law directed to it is void and invalid.

    The law is also unconstitutional as it discriminates against the elderly and segregates handicap children when the law required that they be main streamed with other children as much as possible.

    The MDC no longer exists so

    The MDC no longer exists so any law directed to it is void and invalid.

    That is not correct. The DCR is the successor in law and interest to the MDC.

    The law does not prohibit a dog park or any other use, it directs the MDC to construct a facility and play area for handicapped children but no where does it say that the land should only be for a facility and play area for handicapped children

    This is correct.

    Terrible

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    This is an awful idea. I might be one of the few people using this place for something other than dogs. It could be a great park that would get loads more use if they'd invest a little in it. Giving a huge chunk up to entitled jerks who already let their dogs run unleashed here is a big step backwards.

    Link

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    The link shows that the dog park wouldn't take over the entirety of the Reservation area.

    Does that still step on your toes?

    So...

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    Dog owners are "entitled jerks", but you're the one who doesn't want the dog park b/c you currently use that part of the park and don't want to share.

    Dogs

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    My problem is with unleashed dogs. Go walk your dog wherever, but just keep it physically restrained. Your out of control animal shouldn't inhibit my walk, run or other form of enjoyment.

    In this park

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    The area in question, the unleashed dogs would be contained by a fence.

    You would know you're in this unleashed dog area by actively going through one of the enclosure doors/gates.

    But do forests love them?

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    I know that dog owners think that their dogs belong off leash in forests, but they do cause problems. They harass wildlife, and they often show aggressive territorial behavior toward humans (the problem of a minimally-trained dog taken out of "his" environment and owners who don't understand the problem). If you get enough votes or enough clout, you can declare a forest a dog park, and you can evict the other human users, but you and your dog are just visiting. The wildlife live there, and deserve to live there unmolested.

    Good Point

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    We need to introduce some dangerous animals into the forests to protect the other animals from humans and dogs.

    Your headline is hyperbole

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    The Middlesex Fells has 2200 Acres of forrest. It was created to serve the residents of Boston.

    The Fells are most definitely

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    The Fells are most definitely not in Boston. They're not even really that close. Blue Hills Reservation is closer, but also still not in Boston. The Fells are however a great example of another spot ruined by off-leash dogs.

    Are the Fells in the city of Boston?

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    Nope, no more than the forests around the Quabbin Reservoir, which was also created largely for Boston (and then there's the Blue Hills Reservation, a very small part of which, Fowl Meadow, actually extends into Boston). Stony Brook, which was created as a bequest of a Boston resident (Henry Grew) is the largest forest a Boston resident can get to without leaving the city of Boston (Fowl Meadow being, well, a meadow, and a marsh).

    Right, technically...hence

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    Right, technically...hence the Hyperbole. How many of the stories that you post include Metro Boston, Somerville, Cambridge Medford, etc. If you were hyper focused on the boundaries of Boston proper maybe, but you know better than anyone Boston doesn't mean Boston most of the time.

    New here?

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    If I write about Boston, I mean the city of Boston. If I write about greater Boston or the Boston area or even the area inside 128, I mean Boston and surrounding areas.

    The Fells are not in Boston. And while this proposal is on state land that would be open to anybody, the people who are pushing for a dog park are very much from Hyde Park, West Roxbury, Roslindale and Jamaica Plain, which are Boston neighborhoods. And one of their arguments is that they would rather go to a dog park in their area than having to drive to Dedham or some other suburb.

    So, yeah, I was very much referring to the city of Boston when I wrote that headline.

    However, Mary Cummings Park

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    However, Mary Cummings Park in Woburn and Burlington was explicitly declared "forever open as a public pleasure ground" for the benefit of Boston residents.

    A few years back, Boston decided to interpret the terms of the trust to mean that they could sell the forest to developers, and use the money on whatever they felt like that had some vague connection to benefiting Boston. Fortunately that plan got stopped, and the park is safe (for now).

    Buy A Map

    Please buy a map. Middlesex Fells is in Winchester, Medford, and Malden, not Boston corporate.

    Just as an aside, can I ask for a lot of parkland to be set aside for my pet giraffe? Why all the falling down for dog owners over this? My giraffe needs lots of space to roam and have fun with other giraffes. Where's my park?

    How representative government works.

    You and all the other giraffe owners looking for recreation space should make your elected representatives aware of your needs and desires. Once they understand the large number of constituents a giraffe park would serve, they will respond.

    Many of the pet owners are

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    Many of the pet owners are just going to leave for places with larger yards eventually. They want the space of the suburbs for their pets in a place that doesn't have it. Turning one of the last parcels of woodland into a specific purpose as people don't pick up after their pets limits the usage.

    No they're not

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    Many of the people who spoke last night announced how long they've lived in the area. We're talking decades for many of them.

    What About The Traffic?

    I am just being a speculative jerk here, but I am wondering if anyone who was at the meeting last night supporting this 365 day a year, 15+ hour (or more) a day active intrusion onto the streetscape of West Roxbury / Roslindale was opposed to the expansion of Roxbury Prep onto the Howard Chevrolet site a few weeks back.

    You know that would bring "traffic" to the area for 2 hours a day, 180 days a year. We can't possibly have all that "traffic" there but somehow it will be ok on this street every day, all times of the day.

    Many will leave

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    That may be, but surely you would say that there has definitely been an increase in the number of people keeping their urban pets, or at least expecting the added room of the suburbs for their pets leading to a bigger demand for dog parks. People leaving for the suburbs after a while is not something new.

    A dog park not only allows a

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    A dog park not only allows a place for dogs to run free in a safe fenced in area but provides a place for dogs (and possibly humans who like dogs) to socialize. Many people in Hyde Park have yards for their dogs to run in but it doesnt provide other dogs for the dogs to socialize in. How would you feel if you could never socialize with another human

    Crowded location?

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    Bro, do you even Hyde Park?

    But even places less dense than Hyde Park have dog parks. Many dogs and their owners enjoy the socialization.

    Fenced in?

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    A dog park not only allows a place for dogs to run free in a safe fenced in area

    And they're gonna fence in this, what is it, 35 acres? Do you know how big an acre is?

    Also

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    please alert me to the date and location of this meeting, because I will show up in vocal support of the giraffe park. Despite not having any giraffes of my own, my 3-year-old thinks they are the bees knees, and this city has way too few places to go see them.

    Have a Referendum-Put it to a Vote

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    The problem is that Scaccia does not represent the will of the majority of the people. There should be a referendum a vote by the residents of Hyde Park on whether or not they want the dog park at the subject location.

    Bro I don't like dogs either

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    Bro I don't like dogs either and find people's weird obsession with bringing them into every public aspect of life as though they're children to be WEIRD.

    But that said

    1) the Thompson center is literally a rotting shithole, filled with junkies and spraypaint. Literally any productive use that's going to clean it up and make it useful for ANYONE who actually pays taxes is a net win for everyone. So sure, if your giraffe association wants to sponsor the cleanup of the area to make a giraffe park, go for it. Better than a needle-ridden pit.

    2) more practically, they're letting their dogs run everywhere anyway, pooping at will and biting innocent joggers/walkers/parkgoers/other dogs. this is not going away, and as shown by the arboretum mess the merest suggestion that fido shouldn't be allowed to maul any and everything it wants in its off-leash frenzy is a nonstarter. just give them a designated place so the rest of us can use that as leverage to get them out of parks where they aren't supposed to be.

    Junkies

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    need a place to exist. Why not leave it alone?

    They would be cleaning it up

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    They would be cleaning it up so more people can not pick up after their pets. It's also a huge part of one of the last wooded areas.

    'last wooded areas'

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    right, other than the Blue Hills or the larger portion of the Stony Brook res not being impacted. And the Arboretum.

    Also are we somehow assume the dog owners are also clear cut loggers? I don't buy this fear that dogs will lead to deforestation.

    Oh, the Arboretum

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    How's this for a compromise: you get the off-leash dogs out of the Arboretum, and once you've accomplished that, we'll talk about additional dog parks.

    Wow, what a burn. There are

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    Wow, what a burn. There are places in Boston you can live and be in the Fells quicker than you could be in Stony Brook. That's the point. The Fells are also in Stoneham, so...you know...buy a map.

    who has been fighting the

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    who has been fighting the plans to end the Thompson Center's current role as a feces-laden shooting gallery for the more mobile local drug addicts.

    SICK BURN ahah nice one Adam

    "Landscaping design firm"

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    Can you confirm that the design was prepared by a landscaping design firm and not a registered Landscape Architect or Landscape Architectural firm? Its not just nomenclature - it's an actual difference between licenses and professional standards. It's like saying a municipal building was designed by a contractor and not an architect.

    Beta Group, Inc

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    Have you heard of them? What I don't know about landscaping experts could fill several volumes.

    I have heard of them

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    Thanks for providing details on that point.

    My 2 cents

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    The Stonybrook reservation has always struck me as highly underutilized and mostly forgotten space. There are parking lots, but they are always chained off. What little infrastructure there is (e.g. paved bike trails) are in terrible condition. While it clearly (to me) makes way more sense to kill 2 birds by fixing the Thompson center to create a dog park, actually putting the mostly unused other sections to use is an improvement over the decaying nothing that exists now.

    Not using up a wooded the

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    Not using up a wooded the park is the sort of the point of have it from the start.

    The dogs won't "Use it up"

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    No one is advocating cutting the trees and paving it over. Having people use the park IS the reason that the park exists.

    Very true

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    But the point is, very few do visit because it is not inviting to do so.

    I speak for the trees

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    Trees produce oxygen and provide shade. Dogs produce feces and bite people.

    I'll take trees 10 times outa 10.

    This is a horrible idea ...It

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    This is a horrible idea ...It's a reservation for a reason and don't people walk their dogs thru thee already ...smh

    Good god...the comments here.

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    Good god...the comments here. It's the same old shite. Dog bad - me smart and good and no share. Me want all for myself and my use only. Me now use all of the 140 acres I never heard of because all dog bite!!! This is how you sound. It would be funny except it's #SAD.

    You don't want them in parks, you don't want them in a multi-use space and now you don't want them in a space dedicated just to them and their owners.

    Please, for the sake of humanity, get over yourself. We all pay taxes and we should all be represented. I don't have kids but I want my $ going to new playgrounds, schools, and anything where kids can learn, run and have fun. I don't have a dog but yet I also want my taxes to go to large areas where dog owners can let their dogs run free, socialize and get their ya-ya's out. 140 acres would be fantastic but I am sure dog owners would be happy with 5 acres or even 1. That's called recognizing the needs of others and even when it doesn't serve you understanding the need and being ok with it.

    Come on

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    You don't want them in parks, you don't want them in a multi-use space and now you don't want them in a space dedicated just to them and their owners.

    I don't see anyone saying any of that. I see people saying that there are too many problems already with off-leash dogs who are not controlled by their owners, who harass people and wildlife, and whose owners do not clean up their shit. Why do you have a problem with dogs being on leash and under their owners' control at all times?

    There's not an unlimited

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    There's not an unlimited amount of room to accommodate everything including vast amounts of space for people's pets as they would have in the suburbs. They can walk their dogs just fine, but it's a crowded area. There's a difference between recognizing what people want to use the room, and being able to accommodate all of it.

    Poison Pill

    This proposal is a poison pill designed to outrage people and defeat any type of dog park in that area. No one asked the DCR or Rep. Scaccia to designate all this land to dog uses. They're proposing it so when it is shot down by almost everyone on all sides, they can then throw their hands up and say they tried and then do nothing. It's very transparent. The law in question instructed the former MDC to construct and maintain the Thompson Center for handicapped individuals (which they haven't even done). It does not prohibit them from changing some of the the design or part of the use there - a key distinction being 'part.' The dog park proposal there is on one part of the Thompson Center land and the rest would still be designated for the original use, which is a good thing. This is a very tortured reading of that law designed to obstruct this.

    Yes, yes, yes!

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    This is a very tortured reading of that law designed to obstruct this.

    Hit it right on the head!

    oh pretty PLEASE

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    someone propose Dog Park Bike Lane Spacesavers, I wanna see the comments section catch fire!

    The area west of Enneking Parkway is not flat

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    There are hills there just like the rest of this part of Boston. There is a paved trail which extends West Boundary Rd. across the park to Smith Field Rd. Although it has totally disintegrated behind Georgetowne, there is still a really nice loop with the paved trail from West Boundary Rd. to Turtle Pond. Over the last several years, volunteers have cleared some of it, though parts definitely need to be repaved. So few people go into this part of the reservation that someone live there for years without being noticed. I doubt if many of the residents of Georgetowne, who I think are all or mostly renters and therefore have less clout, would be very happy with large dogs running loose next door with no one really watching out for them but the dogs' owners. There is a lot of opposition in Hyde Park to the Thompson Center dog park, though it seems to me like a good use for an already fenced-in area with a rehabilitatable building which tends to be used by people that we really don't want in our park. And there are quite a few big dogs loose in the entire park already: I would guess that like the Arboretum, dog walkers are the most numerous users of the park in anything bu really nice weather.

    I understand that is good for

    By on

    dogs, larger specifically, to run. It used to be in folk's backyards on a run leash or we would take them to a park and/or beach or just walk them down the street. And if you had a pet, you usually had one.

    Times have changed. Now we have dogs in multiples (2-3 are more common). People who live in the city want dogs including big dogs but they may not have the space to let them exercise.

    I understand all that and have no problem with that want. I prefer dog parks because hopefully the dog owners will use them and not the places where I like to hike and/or trail run, places where they need to leash their dogs but most often do not, and where I have been knocked over and accosted by dogs that are not trained and/or curbed by their owners.

    Now, that being said, 140 acres for a dog dedicated park and trails, seems extravagant to me. And I have to agree about Enneking Parkway - that road is just too dangerous for unleashed dogs to be running around. You also have cyclists and runners who ride and run on that road, including myself.