Thursday November 30, 2017
Concern around noise coming from the recently opened Jaycee dog park resulted in a 3:1 city council decision on November 20 to close the dog park, effective immediately; Tom Chittenden voted “nay.” A committee will form, with representatives from the South Burlington Recreation and Parks Department (SBRP), to scope alternate locations including the Wheeler Homestead, and Red Rocks Park. In the meantime, residents can still walk their dogs on leash at Jaycee Park, but if they want to run their dogs off leash, the enclosed Farrell dog park is the South Burlington option.
Resident Mark Dickinson, who expressed rising concern about the noise, brought this issue forward at the first council meeting in November. He explained that the dog park has been extremely popular since its opening in September, and with people coming and going at all hours of the day and night, the incessant barking has forced his wife to leave their home to complete her work. The situation has compelled him to approach a number of dog park users, politely explaining his circumstances and requesting they control their dogs. Unfortunately, he said his attempts have been met with the same response nearly every time, “This is city property, so we can do what we want.” Which has apparently included tossing the sandwich board at the entrance to the park over a nearby fence repeatedly. Dickinson, himself a dog owner, explained that he has not had an ounce of peace in his own home since the opening.
Deputy City Manager Tom Hubbard explained that the impetus for opening a dog park at Jaycee had to do with the desire to relocate in close proximity to the former Kirby Road dog park; the airport terminated the city’s lease on the Kirby Road property last summer. The Jaycee Park location gave the city jurisdiction over how the location was developed, and also made it possible to provide water on site for the dogs. Hubbard said the city had looked at a number of locations for constructing new dog parks prior to settling on Jaycee and Farrell this fall. SBRP Director Maggie Leugers and Public Works Director Justin Rabidoux met with the various user groups of Jaycee Park, including baseball and rugby teams that regularly use the fields, as part of their research. But it was not anticipated that this location would end up being three times more popular for dogs and their owners than the Kirby Road location.
Hubbard reports that the cost for the Farrell dog park came in at about $6,000. This figure covered labor only as materials for the fit-up were reused from the Kirby Road park, making additional purchases unnecessary. The Jaycee dog park cost roughly $17,000; with $5,000 for labor and $12,000 for materials. The materials used at this location will be transferred for use in a new spot, but at this time there are no projections on potential sites.
All councilors reported they had toured the dog park at various times of day over the past couple of weeks and Tim Barritt said he witnessed a lot of barking as did Pat Nowak, while Meaghan Emery and Chittenden witnessed less. Barritt even played audio of his experience.
Hubbard suggested creating a committee to explore options which could include determining if another site at Jaycee Park may be suitable. But of the utmost importance will be anticipating the noise impact to nearby residents, which admittedly, didn’t come up when making the decision in the first place.
Barritt encouraged balancing the needs for recreation with the needs of homeowners who have “literally been driven bonkers” by the noise. He said that the last time he checked, “Dogs don’t pay taxes.” Barritt also suggested, in the future, using low cost temporary fencing for such ventures until the consequences of an action can be ascertained.
Emery said one resident concerned about his quality of life was enough cause for her to take action. Emery is a dog owner herself as well as a Chamberlin neighborhood resident and added that she couldn’t let pass, “a neighbor being harmed by a city amenity.” Nowak added that she couldn’t see a solution other than considering closing the park.
Chittenden, who voted against closing the park immediately, explained that while he was and has always been sympathetic to Dickinson’s situation, he didn’t want to close this location without an alternative in place.
The motion to close the park while examining a location commensurate with the surrounding area was made by Nowak and seconded by Barritt. A sign was posted at the entrance of the park to explain the sudden closure to people while placing a positive spin on the action; noting that scoping is underway for another location, possibly in the same park.
In the meantime, residents with dogs can still access the Farrell dog park for off leash activity.
SOURCE:Corey Burdick, Correspondent