Somerville has three designated dog parks, but a proposal put forth by one alderman could allow dogs to run around off-leash at more of Somerville's parks.
Alderman At-Large Dennis Sullivan suggested the city consider adopting something similar to Brookline's "Green Dog Program," which sets up designated off-leash times at 14 parks across the town. People who want to participate pay a fee, and their dogs get a special green tag allowing them to participate.
Sullivan said Somerville's dog parks are great, but they're not "easily accessible," particularly for residents in West Somerville, because the three parks are in the eastern part of the city.
The proposal would "create an area where dog owners and dogs can recreate and exercise close to their home," he said.
The alderman said the proposal could also generate some revenue for the city.
When he takes his dog to the park on New Washington Street, sometimes "you see a van pull up. It'll be a nondescript dog-walking service, and out will come 10 dogs with the dog walker," he said.
He added, "I'm not sure how I feel about that … because we're augmenting that person's business and we're not getting anything from it."
Also, people from neighboring towns come to Somerville with their dogs, he said, "and we're not getting anything for it."
In Brookline residents pay $50 a year to participate in the Green Dog Program. Non-residents pay $100; commercial dog-walkers from Brookline pay $100, and commercial dog-walkers from other towns pay $200. There are also two-day and one-week permits for guests. Dog walkers are limited to three dogs at a time.
Different parks have different off-leash hours. Some allow off-leash time from dawn until 9 a.m., some from dawn until 1 p.m., and some have different hours during different seasons.
Here in Somerville, some aldermen voiced concerns about the proposal.
Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston said, "I know there are several parks in my ward where people are very concerned about off-leash dogs, about a portion of [the park] being turned into a dog park." This is especially true at Lincoln Park, she said.
"People have concerns on each end of this," she said. "It's going to be a robust discussion."
Alderman At-Large Bruce Desmond said opening up the parks to off-leash dogs could come with problems with people not following the rules, and that could require policing.
The proposal was sent to the Committee on Housing and Community Development for more discussion.