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A dog park that had long been planned for construction at Bauer Park is now may be taking a new direction, as those behind the grassroots effort to build the park are considering different locations.
Ruthanna Terreri, who is currently spearheading the volunteer efforts to fundraise and advocate for the park, said that for a variety of reasons they are hoping the town will consider other spots, including Salt Meadow Park, Academy Field, and Rockland Preserve.
Attempts to get a park built in Madison go back at least until 2011, when a Bauer Park flyer was circulating bringing up concerns related to dogs being off leash in that park.
Terreri, who serves on the Bauer Park Advisory Board, said when she got involved with the initiative around 2017, she and others worked with Guilford to come up with a design and proposal for the project. Bauer Park was chosen because it had plenty of space, according to Terreri.
A fundraising push behind that design sponsored by the Beach & Recreation Department had raised about $4,000 toward a goal of $29,700 as of last summer.
Terreri said regardless of location, she and other members of the group are using the basic design concepts of a dog park recently constructed in Guilford. People involved in that project have provided lots of resources and support; she described them as “rock stars” in helping guide the project along.
The general principles of that design includes a total of about 1 ½ acres, with a quarter acre for small dogs and the rest for larger dogs. While volunteers would pay for the construction, the town would be responsible for upkeep, Terreri said. She estimated the cost would be around $40,000, depending on the location, as well as other unknowns if more specific designs move forward.
Terreri said that as she and other volunteers considered the location, more and more concerns were raised about the planned area at Bauer, including environmental issues, ease of access, and location.
“There are more reasons not to have it [in Bauer] than there are reasons to have it there,” Terreri said.
The space that was planned a couple years ago simply wasn’t easily reachable, according to Terreri, requiring people to park and walk “a block” or so. Bauer Park is also a less desirable location overall, she said, less central to the town than other potential landing spots for the park.
Terreri said a seven-member volunteer committee reached the conclusion last fall that there were better locations for the park that should be considered, with Salt Meadow being their “top location.”
“The land is flat...There’s trees so there’s shade. Just an overall better, easier situation to build the park there,” Terreri said.
Now, Terreri said that they need approval for the new location from the town. A planned meeting with former first selectman Tom Banisch was canceled when Banisch lost his re-election campaign in November, Terreri said.
She also cited communication issues between Beach & Recreation Director Scot Erskine and the volunteer group as hampering the effort, saying that Erskine left some key materials and information out of last summer’s fundraising push that would have helped drum up support for the park.
Erskine did not return multiple requests by The Source for comment on the dog park.
Terreri said she had planned at one point to resign her position heading up the dog park initiative due to these frustrations as well as time commitments to her full-time position as a climate activist, but was convinced by her fellow volunteers to stay on.
“I went into the meeting [with the volunteer committee], and everyone convinced me to stay,” Terreri said. “So here I am.”
Terreri said she has plans now to sit down with new First Selectman Peggy Lyons to talk about a new location, which the town would have to approve. She also said she was looking for volunteers, sponsors, or donors to assist in the effort, though once a location is agreed on, the volunteers will put together a detailed drawing of the design and move forward with more fundraising and awareness campaigns.
“Once we have the location, we have the plan—Guilford gave it to us, basically. We just need to adapt it to our needs,” Terreri said.
Anyone interested in donating, volunteering, or learning more about the dog park can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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