Dog Plan for Boston Common

Meeting: June 7, 2012, 6:00 PM at the Suffolk University building at 73 Tremont Street on the corner of Beacon.

The Friends are working with neighborhood organizations, the Parks Department, and other interested parties to develop a plan that provides meaningful recreation for dogs in Boston Common, that protects turf and plantings from overuse, and that minimizes interference with other users’ quiet enjoyment of the park.

The aims of the program are to engage dog owners as active stewards of the park, to establish and enforce clear rules and expectations around dogs in the park, and to create a long-term, sustainable mechanism for restoring and renewing those areas of the park that are used for dog recreation.

Under City of Boston Ordinance 16-1, dogs are required to be kept on leash, unless they are in a designated off-leash area. Over the years, dog owners and dog walkers have used various areas of Boston Common for off leash recreation, with mixed results. At present, an area below the Joy Street steps and above the Frog Pond playground is designated for off-leash use during certain times of day, and is marked with signs and dog waste bag dispensers. That slope, having suffered erosion and water runoff damage as a result of broken curbstones, as well as wear and soil compaction as a result of intensive use by dogs and their owners, is now badly in need of restoration. The Friends have budgeted the funds to renovate the area. This requires fencing it off while the turf re-establishes itself and devising a plan for a permanent off-leash solution on the Common.

A 2011 survey of dog owners and other park users revealed, not surprisingly, a significant need for dog recreation, along with areas of conflict between dog recreation and other uses. There is agreement that there is a need for clear rules and expectations, consistently enforced, about where and when dogs are and are not permitted off leash.

The City of Boston has established a Dog Recreation Ordinance 11-10, under which a private organization can take financial and operational responsibility for creating and managing a public dog recreation space. This ordinance provides the mechanism for the Friends to propose and fund a dog use plan and organize local dog owners to fund and help administer the plan going forward.

Boston Common Dog Use Plan
Subject to public input and approval by the Parks Department, the proposed dog use plan would entail designating one or more specific off-leash areas, providing signs, dog waste bag dispensers, and trash receptacles, and engaging in a campaign of outreach and education to encourage dog handlers to obey the rules, to become active stewards of the park, and to contribute financially and otherwise to the upkeep and maintenance of the dog recreation areas and the park as a whole. Consistent with best practices in turf management, the designated space would be rotated to a new location periodically, and dog owners would fund restoration of the previously used spaces. The off-leash area would not be fenced, as a fenced dog enclosure would be inconsistent with the overall objective of a green and uncluttered park, and the historic nature of the Common.

Become Involved
The working group will present the proposed plan and solicit public input at a meeting to be held June 7, 2012 at the Suffolk University building at 73 Tremont Street on the corner of Beacon. The meeting will start promptly at 6:00 PM to accommodate the schedules of those who must leave early.