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Dogs Could Get Off-Leash Time at Somerville's Parks

Alderman At-Large Dennis Sullivan said Somerville should consider adopting Brookline's "Green Dog Program."

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.

Pat Dains March 23, 2013 at 10:06 PM
I agree wholeheartedly with j.digs comments. I am a long-time Somerville resident and property owner, as well as the owner of a local dog services business. Most of my 'colleagues' in the City also live and have based their businesses here because we like the idea of contributing to our community and 'buying local'. Many of us are not just walkers, but also trainers or behaviorists, with years of experience under our belts. And, because of the support we get from so many local dog-owning residents, we're able to go to work everyday and do something we love. It, therefore, saddens me to know that the actions of a few rogue companies, who are generally from outside the City, continue to reflect negatively on those of us who are doing it right. I hope the City will continue in its efforts to weed out these companies and deal with them appropriately. As for the green space initiative, I'm in favor of expanding exercise options for dogs in the City, but understand and share some of the concerns others have expressed about rules enforcement, hygiene and safety for all users. And, as the program and possible fee structure take shape, I hope we'll follow Brookline's lead, charging a fee only to those interested in using the green spaces, but not to those who use current and future fenced in off-leash dog parks, like Nunziato and Zero New Washington St.
joey May 16, 2013 at 05:26 PM
Sorry, Alderman, but this is insane. Why do we continue to reward bad behavior. First bicyclists, now dog owners, they ignore the laws, yet get what they want. If you live in a condo with no yard, you should not have a dog. End of story. Somerville is very small and open space is very limited. Have people forgotten what happened when the first off-leash park on Summer Street opened? It turned into a mud pit. Why? Because dog urine burns grass, and having large numbers of dogs running around on it makes it worse. It got so bad the city had to put down some type of gravel instead of the grass. Is that what you want Trum Field, Prospect Hill Park, etc., to look like? How exactly would you designate a section of the park for limited hours? You couldn't put up a fence because that would eliminate other uses of the park. The issue of dog poop is serious. It is a health hazard, and also attracts rats (something parks are already dealing with due in part to so many development projects and also to the open trash barrels at the parks). How exactly would this be enforced, since none of the dog regulations currently on the books are enforced? Sure, once in a while they go out and issue tickets as a show of enforcement, but then it ends. Would we expect our Police Officers to spend time on this? The Dog Officer? The Dog Officer is a part-time position, people already know they can run their dogs on the bike path at night because he has gone home for the night.
PAULA MONACO May 16, 2013 at 07:30 PM
As a LIFELONG Somerville resident and dog owner. WE ARE RESPONSIBLE! Because of A FEW lazy people you want to punish all of us. Dogs on leashes poop too and I have seen many owners with their dog on the leash just walk away and leave their mess! My dog is off leash trained and Exceptionally well behaved. He is in the house all day while I work and when I get home at the end of the day he likes to go the park and play a little ball and run with some of his friends. He should have every right to run, HE IS A DOG! Yes the police are here at Lincoln Park also ticketing for letting your dog off the leash while our houses in the area are being ROBBED!!! GOOD JOB Alderman!!
PAULA MONACO May 16, 2013 at 07:48 PM
Thank you Tori for being Level headed and Realistic. My dog also is very well trained and obedient. Here at Lincoln the kids scream , break bottles and glass and litter and YES I have seen the kids pooping in the park TOO! As for drug deals they are a common thing in the back of the park and under age drinkin also. I also always clean up after my dog and always have extra baggies for those that may forget.
shirley May 16, 2013 at 08:00 PM
Paula, people with your attitude cause me many problems while walking my dog. There are many dogs that are not social for many different reasons. I can't tell you how many times I have had to ask someone to put their dog on a leash on the bike path because they keep running up behind my dog (esp. at night, not a good thing for any dog). Causing him to get very agitated. The area belongs to everyone, not to entitled dog owners who think everyone wants to play with their dog.

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