Pittsfield commission ramps up efforts to find land for dog park


PITTSFIELD >> Efforts are underway to find a place for dog owners to let their pets roam free in the city.

The Animal Control Commission is pursuing state grant funds of up to $150,000 to transform a piece of city land into a dog park. The parcel would become part of an existing city park or conservation land.

First, the commission must identify a proper place.

"There's a possibility of a piece of land that may be donated to the city, I'm not going to disclose where, that would be ideal for this," commission member Thomas Sakshaug said. "It's got water, it's close to town, it's very convenient."

Grant funds would enable the construction of a fence and addition of other park amenities to the property. To qualify for the funds, the property must contain fresh water, shade and other natural features.

"Keep your fingers crossed and we'll see what happens," Sakshaug said. "We may have to be patient. If that falls through, we'll have to come up with something else, and we have some good ideas."

Currently, there is no public place within the city where residents may legally walk unleashed dogs. Many people do allow their dogs to go off-leash in state-owned public woods, but that is technically against the law — though enforcement is almost nonexistent.

Still, commission members believe a place to do so in the city would provide a clear benefit to dog owners and, of course, their animals.

"Right now a lot of folks think Kirvin Park is an off-leash park but it is not," Sakshaug said in an email. "Based on the number who do it illegally there, I'd say there is a demand for it."

Location has proved very important in the planning of the dog park. Users of city parks initially bristled in past meetings at the idea of such a park being placed inside a heavily used city park, like Springside.

And other possible locations proved too far from downtown, like one near Pittsfield Municipal Airport. So members of the commission will for the time being hold out hope for the as-yet unnamed property that might soon be donated.

Meanwhile, the commission also is entertaining the idea of opening "certain areas of certain parks during certain hours to dogs off-leash."

In order to qualify for the privilege, the dogs' owners would have to acquire special tags from the city Animal Control Officer, be up-to-date on all vaccinations and respond to commands. Owners would also be charged a small fee.

"That's actually a neat idea," said John C. Reynolds, chairman of the Animal Control Commission.

"I think it will encourage people to license their dogs," added member Renee DeRagon.

Sakshaug, who said he borrowed the idea from the town of Brookline's Green Dog Program, which permits off-leash hours in certain parks there, said the initiative was in addition to and not replacement for the push for a dog park.

Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214.


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