(Editor's note: The June 14th meeting that was to take place at the West Roxbury Education Complex to discuss the second phase of Millennium Park has been cancelled and moved to the fall due to scheduling conflicts.)
Since taking office last November, District 6 Boston City Councilor Matt O'Malley has consistently said the establishment of a dog park or dog run in West Roxbury was one of his primary legislative initiatives.
Now, he says, "the ball is rolling" on establishing a spot inside Millennium Park for dogs to run free -- legally.
"The expansive land does include some areas...that would be ideal for a dog park on the grounds," said O'Malley.
Presently, dogs often run free at Millennium Park away from owners despite warnings posted throughout the park that prohibit dogs from being off-leash. (The attached photos show several dogs off-leash at Millennium Park.) This has led to incidents over the years ranging from frightened children to raised tensions between a walker keeping her dog off-leash and a dog training group.
O'Malley met earlier this week with Alice Hennessey, a Special Assistant to Mayor Menino and West Roxbury resident who played a major role in the establishment and founding of Millennium Park. Hennessey said O'Malley has a copy of a 2004 City Council ordinance regarding the establishment and management of dog recreation spaces. Hennessey, for her part, indicated that she supported the idea.
"I personally would like to see a dog park in every section of the city where dogs could romp and run freely in a safe environment," she said in an e-mailed statement.
O'Malley said he and Hennessey discussed a number of spots in Millennium Park that may be ideal for dogs, but noted that it was "very early in the process." But the timing of the meeting may prove fortuitous, as a meeting to discuss the final design plans for Millennium Park's second phase of development is to be held on Tuesday, June 14 at the West Roxbury Education Complex. The meeting was scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m., was to be open to the public, but cancelled (please see editor's note at the beginning of this article).
"There's an opportunity presented [by the meeting]," said O'Malley. "...The timing works out well to help enhance the park."
Hennessey added that interested parties should attend the meeting.
"Anyone interested in having a dog park considered in the design plans should attend that meeting," said Hennessey.
O'Malley hopes to see heavy community involvement in the process, noting that "we have so many dog owners and walkers in the district." He said he hopes to host a meeting in or around August to discuss the potential park.
In November, J. Alain Ferry, of the dog owner advocacy group BostonDOG, told Patch about the benefits for dogs, dog owners, and the community at-large that dog parks provide. Dogs, he said, get exercise by being allowed to run off-leash. Dog owners are able to meet fellow owners and build upon their community. Residents of the neighborhood would not have to worry about dogs running the park off-leash, as is so frequently the case. "A dog park becomes a powerful tool for enforcing leash laws," Ferry said.
Millennium Park visitors seem to support the idea.
"There's no good reason not to try," said Rosemary Dougherty, a West Roxbury woman who lets her dog Ladybug off-leash on less crowded days at the park. She said letting Ladybug off-leash is beneficial to the because her exercise exhausts her. "A tired dog is a good dog."
Others support the idea because they don't feel as though their dogs are suited to be off-leash outside of a designated area, thereby preventing them from getting that exercise.
"It would be good for her," said Dedham's Sheila McNamara, who walks her chow pug at Millennium Park on-leash three times a week. "She doesn't get the opportunity to go free. She won't go anywhere I tell her without the leash on."
McNamara added that she and Callie had a great time at the dog park at Amory Playground in Brookline. Other highly regarded dog parks have been established at Peter's Park in the South End and Ronan Park in Dorchester.
One man who does not currently own a dog thought the establishment of a dog park would be to the community's benefit.
"I would think it would be a good idea," said John O'Leary, a semi-retired life-long West Roxbury resident. "People see Millennium Park as a children's play place and having dogs off-leash is asking for trouble."
Katherine Stone, who walks her mother's dog Cali off-leash when she visits from Rhode Island, said the idea sounded good in theory but reasoned that owners would still have some reasons to keep their dogs off-leash outside of designated areas.
"Most likely people are going to want them to have free reign," said Katherine Stone. "For example, dogs love swimming by the canoe launch. There will probably always be a ton of dogs off-leash by the canoe launch."