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Public polled on potential dog park

Date: 1/11/2012

Jan. 11, 2012

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

AGAWAM — There’s still plenty of time for residents to weigh in on the creation of a proposed dog park in town.

Deborah Dachos, director of Planning and Community Development, told Reminder Publications that residents have until Feb. 1 to take part in a survey being conducted by her office gauging interest in the proposed project and what features those in favor of a dog park would like to see included.

The survey, which was created for the town free of charge by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) through its Local Technical Assistance Program, is available online at the town’s website,

“They can also call or email me and I can send them a hard copy of the survey if they want to complete it,” Dachos said. She can be reached at 786-0400, ext. 283 or by email at

Dachos said she’s already received “quite a few” hard copies of the survey, but doesn’t have a current count on the number online responses, as they are being collected and tabulated through software administered by the PVPC.

“It’s spurring a lot of interest,” she noted. “We’re getting a good cross-section of the community.”

Dachos emphasized that residents for or against the dog park concept need to take the time to voice their views.

“Public input is really critical. If the input is overwhelmingly negative, I would have to report it to the mayor and he would have to make a decision as to whether or not this is a project the town should be supporting,” she said.

According to Dachos, the idea of creating a public dog park in Agawam is being promoted by a private organization, the Agawam Dog Owners Group (ADOG). She said to date everything done in conjunction with the dog park has been at no cost to the taxpayers — the PVPC provided the survey, an intern from Westfield State University, Sahar Kafi, has been collecting information on area dog parks and their costs and operations, and ADOG has been fund-raising to prepare for potential construction costs. In addition, Berkshire Design Group, the architects responsible for designing School Street Park, has offered to draft concept designs for the proposed park pro bono.

Her office is looking at “multiple town-owned parcels to determine which would be feasible,” as a site for the dog park.

“There’s a lot of free assistance being offered [to] this project to make it a reality,” she said.

Scott Milliken, founder of ADOG, said he first broached the subject of bringing a dog park to town at a December 2010 Conservation Commission meeting where the commission was seeking public input for the second phase of development of School Street Park.

“After the meeting a couple of people contacted me,” Milliken said, adding there were also a few stories about his suggestion in the local media. “It just snowballed from there.”

He said ADOG, which has been in existence for “about six to seven months,” has approximately 150 members and has already completed its first fund-raising effort for the proposed park, a 13-month calendar featuring photos of local dogs.

“We had a dog photo contest and got 73 dogs [who entered],” Milliken said. Dog owners paid $10 to submit the photos of their animals to the contest. An impartial judge selected 13 dogs for the final calendar, which sells for $15. Milliken said the group has nearly sold out of the 250 copies it printed.

He said this fund-raiser, and another, a bus trip to Mohegan Sun Casino on Feb. 11, are meant to demonstrate to the public and local businesses that ADOG is serious about funding the proposed dog park.

“We’re a committed group of dog owners,” he noted, adding that the group isn’t looking for “a taxpayer handout” to fund the dog park.

“In these economic times, we didn’t want people to think we wanted a play place for our dogs. There’s more to a dog park than a place to play. It’s a place for socialization and exercise, and a place to teach dogs to be better canine citizens,” he said

Milliken, who has already visited several dog parks in Connecticut and consulted with other non-profit groups that oversee such parks, said that in addition to creating a place where the town’s more than 4,000 dogs can potentially socialize and exercise, ADOG has a long-term goal of including a training area at the proposed park in the hopes of having the Police Department utilize the space to train dogs to reestablish a canine unit.

“We could also lease the space out to trainers and funnel the money back into the park,” he noted.

Individuals interested in more information about ADOG and the upcoming fund-raiser can follow the group on Facebook at agawamdogpark. They can also email ADOG at with any questions.

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