The Woodbridge Board of Selectmen in March agreed to a revised outline for an off-leash dog park planned at the Fitzgerald tract. The new outline avoids an area around the abandoned skating rink, a field which has been consistently under water for much of the past year.
The revised layout resembles a large triangle, starting close to the existing parking lot. It stays clear of the walkways surrounding the upper field, which was one concern of people critical of placing a dog park near the popular trails; nor does it encroach on the fenced-in area held by the Land Trust for an American chestnut experiment. There is a short walkway from the existing parking lot to where the entrance to the fenced-in off-leash area will be.
“The [area] the Board of Selectmen approved was by far the best option as it avoids all walking paths, sitting water, and allows the maximum area for haying,” wrote Dog Park Cooperative president Bonnie Blake in an email. The haying refers to the rest of that meadow, which is one of a series of town-owned properties leased to local farmers for agricultural uses.
Selectmen’s vote was not unanimous, as David Lober voted against the revision. In a subsequent email he explained that he felt the board was not sufficiently prepared for the vote. “This was presented to the board for a quick vote without having been given the opportunity to visit the site and review the changes,” he wrote. “How can we have a meaningful vote without knowing the exact location, boundaries, and impact on the property and it’s other users.”
First Selectmen Beth Heller responded by saying the suggested outline was clearly marked on the map that was passed out to every board member. “The slightly re-aligned area seemed clear on the map prepared for the Board meeting, and it is the same footage,” she wrote in an email.
As approved, the designated area covers 1.47 acres, and allows a separate area for smaller and older dogs, an entrance where dogs can be leashed/unleashed and a larger area where they can roam and play. The plan for the future is to install benches and plant shade trees.
Fundraising: Some 300 or so community members have organized in the Woodbridge Dog Park Cooperative, which is currently raising money to get the project off the ground without using taxpayer dollars. The goal is to raise $60,000 by the end of June in order to start fence construction by the fall. Blake said this is the amount needed to construct the fence, a walkway, signage and one-year maintenance. The town set this amount as a minimum for the initiative to be realized on town land.
According to its website, https://woodbridgedogpark.org/, the group has raised $25,000, putting them at 40% of the stated goal. To achieve that goal, they have reached out to potential donors including residents and area businesses through different pathways. They are selling fence sections ($500), benches ($2,500) or memorial trees ($1,800 and up); also, by sponsoring fundraising events such as the recent Bark Madness at Orange Ale House, an event for which 49 area businesses donated gift baskets or cards.
Doggie Dash: All families, with or without dogs, can strut their stuff on Saturday, June 1, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., for the benefit of the dog park initiative. The cooperative is sponsoring a dog/human walk around the Fitzgerald tract and the town campus, good for all ages. This is not a race, but rather an invitation to walk together as a super-pack. The event coincides with the Library Book Store’s book sale and the Garden Club’s plant sale. There will be food, music and costumes.
Woodbridge Dog Park Cooperative, Inc. is an all-volunteer 501©(3), and any contributions are tax deductible. Donors of different levels will be recognized on a Founders Wall at the entrance to the dog park, as well as on the website and Facebook page. Donor levels range from Grand Champions ($5,000 and up), Best in Show ($2,500 and up) to Top Dog ($1,000 and up) and Gold Bone ($500 to $999).
By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent