Since the Jaycee Park Dog Park opened last year, there has been consistent turmoil between councilors and residents around issues with its location. Excessive noise has been the chief complaint among those who wanted the dog park closed, while dog owners who enjoyed the park, touted the benefits of its location in the Chamberlin neighborhood which has been without a dog park since the Kirby Road location closed.
In response to a neighbor’s complaints about incessant noise from barking dogs, the council voted to close the dog park at Jaycee in November, just a few months after it had opened. Dog owners who wanted the park reopened joined forces and petitioned the council to reverse their decision. The topic was addressed over the course of several council meetings, and a dog park task force was created by the city to determine best practices and policies around creating future dog park facilities.
At their first meeting in May, city council voted to re-open Jaycee Dog Park temporarily, effective June 15, after hearing the dog park task force’s recommendations. This decision passed 3:2 with Emery and Barritt voting “nay.”
However, at the May 21 council meeting, after receiving a petition with the signatures of 32 residents who wanted the dog park to remain closed, followed by a detailed presentation from the dog park task force with recommendations for the park’s reopening, and a new proposal by counselor David Kaufman on alternate dog park locations at Veterans Memorial Park, it was decided, in fact, that Jaycee Dog Park will not re-open as planned. The vote was 4:1 with Chittenden voting “nay.”
Betty Milizia and Barbara Sirvis, who serve on the dog park task force, presented the council with their revised recommendations. Some of the recommendations came from a community forum held to find solutions to the divisive issue. They found that there is a desire for a dog park in the Chamberlin neighborhood, and acknowledged that the needs of both dogs and families need to be balanced. Among their recommendations were to make Jaycee Park an “on-leash” park, which would require an ordinance change, and instituting firm hours of operation such as Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 7 a.m. to dusk or 8 p.m. and Saturdays 8 a.m.-dusk or 8 p.m. They also proposed establishing a Friends of Jaycee community dog park group responsible for opening and closing the park as well as a sign with “rules” instead of “suggestions.” The rules would include no children under 12 in the dog park, requiring dogs to be licensed, limiting the number of dogs to 4 in the small dogs area, and 8 in the large dog section, standing 5’ back from the gate when a another dog is entering or exiting, cleaning up after one’s dog, and the prohibition of nuisance barking. Their evaluation trial period was proposed to run from June-August 15 with multiple online and hard copy survey options available for people to provide feedback.
After hearing the recommendations, Councilor David Kaufman presented a proposal that would leave Jaycee Dog Park closed and instead, move the location to one of two areas at Veterans Memorial Park. He identified one possible location at the entrance to the park adjacent to the ball field, along with another potential site at the back of the park, beyond the rinks, near the solar panels. Kaufman also proposed a number of ideas to finance the dog parks in order to decrease the financial burden to the city. These included requiring residents to pay a yearly fee to use the dog parks and doubling that fee for non-residents. In addition, he asked City Manager Kevin Dorn to talk to UVM about their land on Patchen Road, previously used by the city for a dog park, as a potential temporary site. Most counselors seemed amenable to this idea with Chittenden opposed to keeping the Jaycee dog Park closed, but he was interested in exploring the idea of UVM’s property plans. Dorn will look into Middlebury Fencing’s schedule to determine the cost and time frame for relocating the fencing from Jaycee to Veterans Memorial Park. Potential legal issues will also be explored in terms of having a ball field within a certain distance of a dog park.
After a vote was taken and passed 4-1, the council provided clarification on the official structure and charge for the new Dog Park sub-committee. It was decided that the current committee would continue their work to help select a preferred dog park site at Veterans Memorial Park. Then, at the first council meeting in June, a more formal dog park task force will be created and positions advertised along with other city committees. Emery will present a resolution at the next council meeting to provide an outline of the committee charge and its proposed duration.
SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent