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.