City board makes plans for dog park

Wednesday, February 13
PITTSFIELD — The proposed dog park at the former Springside Park zoo will be used as a "pilot" project that can be terminated if it is not successful, members of the Park Commission told the City Council last night.

"If we go through the whole process and it's not needed, then it's over," board member Sheila LaBarbera said.

The Park Commission in December had voted to adopt an ad hoc committee's recommendation that the city's first-ever dog park be located at the site of the former zoo.

The ad hoc committee was formed in the fall of 2006 after concerns were raised regarding the amount of dog droppings in Pittsfield's 29 parks.

In January, Ward 2 Councilor Louis A. Costi filed a petition asking the Park Commission to appear before the council and explain its decision.

Only two of the Park Commission's four members — Chairman John P. Herman and LaBarbera — addressed the council last night. Clifford J. Nilan was not in attendance. Charles P. Garivaltis attended the meeting, but sat in the audience while Herman and LaBarbera spoke. Garivaltis was the only Park Commission member to vote against the dog park in December.

Although several councilors asked questions, the council as a whole appeared to be in favor of the facility.

"I encourage you to soldier on with this," Ward 6 Councilor Linda M. Tyer said.

Besides referring to the dog park as a pilot program, Herman said the Park Commission doesn't have "all the answers" yet regarding the establishment of the facility. But he said that he has reviewed at least 30 similar facilities located in seven major cities across the country.

"Basically, they all have the same rules," he said. "They need co-operation from dog owners. I think that we can do that."

LaBarbera said the Park Commission still needs to determine how to secure funding for fencing, maintenance issues, the establishment of rules and regulations, and the times of operation before it can set up the dog park on the one-acre site. The estimated cost for fencing is $8,000, she said. With only 21/2 employees available to oversee 29 parks, LaBarbera said the city would be unable to monitor the dog park all hours of the day. Signage and cleanup mitts will be available.

"We'll try and give people an alternative, and hopefully they'll follow the rules," she said.

The ad hoc committee originally looked at all 29 city parks as sites for the dog facility, LaBarbera said, but narrowed the list to Springside Park and Kirvin Park on Williams Street. Those two parks contained "the greatest amount of success."

She said Kirvin Park abuts a residential area, which Springside Park does not. Springside Park also contains water and shade, and is already used by a large number of dog owners. Springside, the city's largest park, is also accessible from North Street and is the park best suited for use by the physically handicapped, she added.

Kirvin Park also has a large number of dog walkers, but its closeness to residential areas and use by people who access nature trails made Springside a better fit, she said.

"Kirvin is a possibility down the road," LaBarbera said. "We didn't discount it completely."

City attorney John DeRosa said that he did not find the city would be subject to any additional liability if it established a dog park within a city park.

During the public comment period, Elizabeth Kulas, the president of the Vin Hebert Arboretum at Springside Park, said the establishment of a dog park within Pittsfield "is a good idea" but that Springside Park is "not that place."

Kulas asked the council to place a "moratorium" on development of such a facility until all the outstanding issues have been agreed to.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:, (413) 496-6224


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