Long time South Burlington Residents may remember that the UVM land on Patchen Road used to serve as a Community Dog Park. In many ways, and ideal scenario: it had great parking, no neighbors and ample acreage for dog play and exercise needs. This proved an asset to the community until UVM detailed their desires for the creation of housing there and ended city access. The space has remained vacant for some 15 years, and despite several inquiries to see if we might regain access, we have been unsuccessful in establishing any kind of a foothold.
Kirby Road Extention:
The pressing need to fill the void at Patchen Road, meant looking into other options. A nearby dormant parcel on Kirby Road Extension was vetted and with plenty of parking and no neighbors, a dog park was installed with the advocacy, fundraising and support of the Friends of the Dog Park volunteers. The park met with great success and while there were some drainage issues that were being researched and rectified, the park closed due to the end of the lease agreement with BTV. Though this long-term lease was entered into in good faith by both the Airport and City; new rules from the FAA prohibited the land usage which required the parks relocation.
The search for a new Dog Park location became a fast priority. It was highly desirable to keep the Dog Park in an adjacent area of the City, as it has always been well accessed by area neighbors, so land parcels were reviewed for use. Due to the fragility of land leases and agreements, it was deemed essential that the next Dog Park be sighted on City owned land; which would ensure more permanency. With its open space, access to amenities of water, shade and seating as well as the infrastructure to support parking and maintenance, Jaycee Park was chosen as the next site of the South Burlington Dog Park. While the concept was vetted through the abutting neighbors prior to building the park, without concern, its success drew large amounts of visitors and soon became a very popular place after work hours and on the weekends, which created noise and nuisance complaints from neighbors. The City Council decided to close the Dog Park immediately and plans to replace its modest size began again.
Open areas in developed park spaces were reviewed and, in an attempt, to fill the needed gap and give an option to the community, fencing was taken from the Jaycee Dog Park and moved to the lower flat on the Farrell Park Property. This allowed for ample parking, isolation from neighbors and a quick solution while the newly formed Dog Park Committee got to work on finding another site within city limits to support the off leash needs of dog play and recreation.
Dog Park Committee Research:
The City hired a consultant to head the newly formed Dog Park Committee and they worked diligently to create site evaluation matrix to apply to lands being considered as well as vet design elements and acreage needs, essential amenities and best practices for operations. Once these were accepted by the City Council, the committee got to work evaluating parcels of city owned land in an effort to narrow their search for the next dog park site.
After nearly a year of work and evaluation, eventually Wheeler was chosen the preferred site and after seeing what space was left for this use deemed unobjectionable by numerous other City committees, the Dog Park Committee came up with the current 2+ acre lot just south of the parking lot on Swift St. Ext. With a large enough area to accommodate small dogs and large dogs to roam and play on mixed topography with natural elements, this site provides easy access, plenty of parking and will be an additional asset to the community. Budgeting through the CIP has been planned for and engineering and design have already taken place. We are currently in the permitting phase of this project, which will allow for installation in the upcoming construction season.
What is next?
The Dog Park Committee is hopeful for additional parks around the city. Possible sites include the city-owned parcel(s) in front of Butler Farms right off 116 as well as within the proposed O’Brien Development. These projects will continue to be vetted as we wait for the coming construction season and the installation of the Wheeler Dog Park. Additionally, they support the work of the Dog Recreation Task Force as it works to review the overall needs, obstacles and opportunities for additional allowances for off leash dogs.
ROAD TO THE CREATION OF A DOG RECREATION TASK FORCE: 2021
There has been a lot of work done already to get us to this point. Below is a bulleted time line of the past year and how we came upon the newly created Dog Recreation Task Force. Please note, some of our work has been stalled due to staff furloughs and streamlined essential work only mandates. While we have prioritized this work, the pandemic continues to impact our work force capacity.
A staff led working group of citizen volunteers, meets as the Open Space Management Task Force; with the mission of creating form and consistency in the creation of Management Plans for South Burlington Open Spaces. With the first priority of updating the outdated Red Rocks Management Plan, the Task Force grapples with the on-going off leash dog concerns at Red Rocks. The priority to address this becomes critical and something beyond the capacity of the current task force. Staff begin to work on researching this issue outside of the Open Space Management task force.
As the pandemic continues and the community seeks health and wellness in accessing their local parks, the concerns registered about off leash dogs in the SB natural areas and parks raises to nearly daily calls to the city. Data from the city Health Officer is reviewed and it is determined that nearly half of the dog bites that are reported in South Burlington come from Red Rocks Park; highlighting the need to prioritize this work and create solutions to satisfy all park patrons, while offering protections to the sensitive natural elements of our parks system. A staff level committee reviews city leash ordinance and begins to draft a “frame work” document of dog recreation needs in the city.
The issue of off leash dogs in Open Space Areas and their impact on Natural Resources is discussed at the Regional Conservation Partnership Meeting; which indicated this is not a stand-alone issue for South Burlington, but an issue that other bordering communities are struggling with as well. Some communities have had to limit even on-leash dog access to their natural areas as a reaction to non-compliance of their leash laws. Other communities concede that they simply don’t have the human or financial resources to address the concern, so rely on signage to at least inform and hopefully curb the behavior.
A joint committee meeting (Dog Park Committee, Natural Resources and Conservation Committee and Recreation and Parks Committee) is publicly warned and held to review the staff developed “frame work” and to discuss next steps in how to address the work outlined in the framework. None of the committees felt they could individually take on the work, but agreed that in needed to be forwarded, so perhaps a comprehensive Task Force (with representation across the committees) could be created.
Individual committees (Natural Resources and Conservation Committee, Recreation and Park and the Dog Park Committee) meet independently to discuss appropriate next steps, and conclude that the creation of a Dog Recreation Task Force is an appropriate next step and that the Task Force should be made up of representation of each of the named committees as well as a breadth of city staff.
Members representing each committee or assigned to the Task Force.
An introductory email is sent to all Dog Recreation Task Force members to discuss potential meeting times and availability and a first meeting is scheduled and announced to the public through the South Burlington City News.
Agenda is posted and meeting held on Feb 9th at 12:00. Meeting access, agendas and minutes to be posted on the city website under the Dog Recreation Task Force Tab, both allowing and encouraging public comment and participation.
The agenda for March is to develop a work plan and time line to begin the work; assuming monthly meetings.
Monthly meetings with updates and reports to the City Council as appropriate with published findings and recommendations presented to the City Council upon completion.