Wednesday night’s meeting was a step in the right direction, but not a homerun for West Roxbury District Councilor Matt O’Malley or dog lovers of the community.
The discussion around developing a potential dog park at Millennium Park continued at West Roxbury’s Roche Family Community Center. The well attended meeting was hosted by O’Malley as a follow up to his August 11 meeting, where he first introduced the idea.
O’Malley set the tone of the discussion before moderating an array of varied opinions. He acknowledged that two conversations bred at the last meeting – the desire for a dog park at Millennium and off leash hours.
“I came to this thinking wouldn’t it be great for someone who has grown up around dogs to have a dog park in West Roxbury," said O'Malley. "I was surprised at the level of concern against it. I can see why because I have spoken to many of you and see where you are coming from."
He stated that whether or not this dog park happens, the final decision is not his. He further emphasized that the point of the evening’s discussion was to generate ideas and have a healthy community conversation as a means of coming to a consensus.
“I want this meeting to open up the conversation in an effort to be on the same page.” said O’Malley. “If we decide to go forward and engage the process, which is lengthy, we’ll need to create a friends group.”
O’Malley’s sentiment didn’t transfer so smoothly with attendees. Upon several reiterations of the meeting’s purpose, attendees wanted answers about the process, funding and next steps - answers not yet known or determined. Several ideas and opinions were on the table, some worthy of being their own issue, like changing the leash laws in Boston.
As the divide became more evident, so did the bottom line. The majority of those present wanted both options. The people spoke and majority wanted both.
Favoring either or was seemingly not an option for attendees for fear that it would alienate a group of dog walkers or change the present dynamic of dog walking at the park.
Maribeth Scott of West Roxbury was concerned that the opportunity would pass if the community didn't put their heads together fast.
"We have a limited opportunity with Millennium Park Phase 2 opening where we can potentially designate an area for our dogs. If we don't come to a consensus, we may not have this opportunity again," said Scott.
Jim O’Neil of West Roxbury just wanted to stick to the point at hand and was concerned that the group was taking this opportunity for granted.
“This was a fenced in area issue that has expanded to an off leash issue," said O'Neil. "That's not something that’s going to be voted on right now. I don’t want to feel like we’re wasting our time here."
O’Malley clarified that even if the group came to an agreement at the meeting, nothing was guaranteed.
“I don’t know if we can go forward with both things at the same time. We won’t know that until we have the people who make those decisions at the next meeting.”
O"Malley's next step will be to convene another meeting with the city's Parks & Recreation department, as well as the Department of Public Works to determine the next steps.
The councilor said there will be a third meeting in October to further discuss the issue.