Dog Park Desert: Boston Dog Parks Have Long Way to Go

Watson, Cocker Spaniel, playing with his owner.
Written by Libby Allen

By Libby Allen
BU News Service

The urban dog park trend has grown in recent years, but while other cities are embracing the growing urban pet population, Boston has lagged behind the pack. With the anticipated opening of a permanent dog park in the North End neighborhood of Gassy Flights, however, change seems inevitable.

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Watson, Cocker Spaniel

The number of dog recreation spaces–or DRSs–in Boston is slim, but they do exist. The Peter’s Park Dog Run in the South End and the Ronan Park DRS are the only two dog parks within Boston that meet city code requirements for off-leash animals. There is also a trial DRS on the Boston Common without fencing that dog owners can use at specific times of day. Neighborhood groups, like Responsible Urbanites for Fido, or RUFF, are spurring change by bringing the new DRS to the North End.

RUFF established a pilot DRS in the Gassy Flights area of the neighborhood in May. The pilot park was supposed to run through July, but was such a success that the city indefinitely extended it. Now, the group is in the process of proposing a preliminary budget that, pending approval from the city, will solicit a private foundation for the funding of a permanent park slated to open next spring.

While much of the subsidies for the park will come from private donors, volunteers have also donated goods and services. The North End Parking Garage will install lights throughout the park free of charge.

“The city is only committing to some maintenance for the park. The remainder of the money will come from RUFF fundraisers,” said Dave Goggins, the Parks Chair for RUFF. “We’ll have to kick it up a notch, going forward, to keep the existing dog park up.”

Dog parks are an effective crime reduction tool for any neighborhood or community, according to the Friends of Ronan Park organization,  because dog owners are considered built-in neighborhood watchers; they are outside every morning, evening and many times in between.

“Positive activity pushes away negative activity,” said Ryan Woods, spokesman for the Boston City Parks Department. “When you have any park where there are people exercising and playing, or people walking their dogs, the people doing something negative don’t want to be around that.”

With the influx of urban pet owners and the desire to have a designated area for those pets to roam free, it is up to neighborhoods and community organizations, like RUFF, to change the landscape and create a space for every neighborhood dog to run and play.

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