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Council to create dog park committee

Date: 2/22/2012

Feb. 22, 2012

By Debbie Gardner

WESTFIELD — The quest to find a location for a proposed dog park came to the attention of the City Council last Thursday, when two councilors requested a committee be created to study the project.

Ward Six City Councilor Christopher Crean, together with At Large City Councilor James R. Adams, brought a motion before the council requested that City Council President Christopher Keefe form a special committee to study "the feasibility and location of a dog park"in Westfield.

Under new City Charter rules, the City Council President can form such a committee to operate for not longer than one year.

Crean said he and Adams both attended the Parks and Recreation Commission public hearing on the proposed dog park at the Paper Mill Playground on Feb. 9 and despite the concerns expressed by some attendees, it seemed "the majority of the people were in favor of a dog park" somewhere in the city.

He said he and Adams wanted to assist Westfield Dog Bark Friends, a non-profit group seeking to create the dog park in town, and the Parks and Recreation Department in finding "a permanent location" for the park.

"The friends of the dog park have a great outreach program and with their help, and any other city councilor who wants to be on the committee, we could get together, look at what our assets are, see what funding [the friends have] and what funds there are to finance a dog park that's suitable and a location that's suitable for everybody," Crean said.

He added that he was requesting the formation of a special committee — which he proposed would include citizens as well as councilors and appropriate city department heads — because it would be "a good opportunity [for both] the council and residents to look at a proposal."

At Large City Councilor Brian Sullivan, who said he also attended the Feb. 9 meeting, noted that the "people who came out there were not just saying 'no to [a dog park at] Paper Mill and moving on, they were for the park and looking for help to find a place where everyone could buy into."

Ward Five City Councilor Richard Onofrey Jr. noted that the Westfield Dog Bark Friends had done fund-raising for the park and "does not seek any city financing."

Ward Four City Councilor Mary O'Connell reminded the council that, per the city's Charter, the "Parks and Recreation commission has power over all city parks and outdoor activities," and she hoped this special commission would be formed "with the understanding that Parks and Rec has the final decision and authority on this."

Adams suggested there might be private land available in town where the park could be located, and suggested the special committee could explore that as well.

Crean said the ultimate reason he was requesting the special committee was that the proposed dog park — or any park for that matter — was "going to have an impact on the city and in turn, on somebody's ward. I felt the more input we get on this, the better off we all are to get this right."

The motion passed. Keefe asked councilors to submit names for the special committee, with the expectation he would appoint the members at the council meeting slated for March 1.

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