Parks manager James McGrath address the gathering on Saturday morning. The park opened last fall and relies on volunteers and park users to keep it clean and policed.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Pittsfield Dog Dark had an opening event on Saturday to thank the volunteers and contributors for all their hard work in making the park a reality.
"We want to celebrate everyone who has made the dog park possible. And our volunteers are priceless. They keep maintaining the park and helping us keep it up day to day," Recreation and Special Events Coordinator Becky Manship said.
A soft opening was held in September but the formal ribbon-cutting and ceremony was postponed because of the pandemic.
Although the ribbon was not actually cut, it was laid on the raffle table for park goers to see. A small raffle offered chances on Officer Winston the comfort dog stuffed animals donated by the Police Department and a variety of dog-themed items from Blue Q.
At the end of the event, the Friends of the Pittsfield Dog Park handed out a bag of homemade pumpkin dog bones along with the recipe.
During the event, dogs frolicked leash free in their designated sections, enjoying the warm weather with their owners.
The gated area has two sections: one side is for dogs less than 30 pounds and the other is for large dogs.
The fenced area for off-leash dogs features a grassy layout for pooches to roam, a walking path, benches, complimentary waste bags, and even a dog-sized water fountain.
The community has been working to create this dog park to provide an open space where dogs can satisfy their natural instinct to run. One park volunteer mentioned that it can be difficult to find a place in Pittsfield where dogs can run free because of on-leash laws.
"There’s leash laws in Berkshire County, so we needed a place where people can actually legally take their dogs and let them off the leash and run. And that's part of a dog's nature. It's a need that they have," Friends of the Pittsfield Dog Park member Janet Brennan said.
The park also provides a safe place for people to take their dogs if they are not comfortable enough to take them on the surrounding trails. It also provides residents who do not have a back yard a space where they can take their dogs to enjoy the outdoors.
"It's nice too because some single women or men, for that matter, may not be comfortable walking some of the trails alone. It gives them a safe place to come. And it's a nice family experience to come with the kids," Friends Chair Elizabeth Stokes said.
"Not everybody has a backyard for their dog. You know, we take a lot of things for granted. There are some dogs that don't ever get an opportunity to really know, they're tied to the porch and go in the apartment and or home. So it's a safe place."
Not only does the dog park provide an open space for dogs to interact, it also provides community members who share in their love of dogs a place to come together and make connections.
"Dog parks, not only are places for dogs, but they're also places for humans," Park, Open Space and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said. "It's about the dogs but it's really a gathering place for residents of our community who love dogs and we're into animal welfare and so it's been a real win for us."
It is the owners' responsibility to ensure the safety of the animals at the park. Dogs that are not properly socialized should refrain from coming to the park until they are.
The Parks and Recreation Department is responsible for the park but it will be maintained by community volunteers.
The dog park is actively looking for volunteers. Park goers are responsible for cleaning up after their dogs but they still need individuals willing to visit the park once a week for an hour to empty and refill the dog waste stations, check the water station, and sweep the stones.
"So, there’s our headline — more volunteers. If you make the call, we will find a place for you to get involved," McGrath said.
One of the concerns that many residents had when it came to building the dog park was the cost.
A dog park facility has been in the city's long-range plan since 2003. The Parks Commission and an ad hoc committee endorsed a site at Springside Park for the proposal in 2006 but community pushback derailed that effort a year later.
In 2016, Mayor Linda Tyer established another ad hoc committee to find a new location for the dog park. Multiple locations were evaluated and, in 2017, there was a recommendation made for Burbank Park.
The Parks Commission then endorsed that recommendation
The cost of the park was approximately $300,000 and three-quarters of that came from Stanton Foundation, a philanthropic organization in Boston.
"So the funding for the park was a combination of, of grant funds from the Stanton Foundation and there was some capital funding that the city allocated a few years back as part of a capital budget" McGrath said. "The park was approximately $300,000. And about three-quarters of that came from the Stanton Foundation, which is a philanthropic organization in Boston, which is really interested in animal welfare and has been funding dog parks across the country."
The dog park can be found within Burbank Park on the south side of the main road leading into Onota Lake. There is a driveway and parking availability immediately off Valentine Road.
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