By Thomas Greenberg
After a bit of a snag regarding funding for a dog park on Beachmont Street off of Park Avenue, the city council has thrown the recreation department a bone and officially green-lighted a resolution to allow the dog park to be built.
The dog park will be adjacent to the basketball court that was refurbished this past summer by the Rhode Island Dream Center, a non-profit organization that also built the Smith Street playground. The Dream Center will be building and funding this new dog park, apart from maybe some fencing or cleanup services that the Parks and Recreation Department will provide, according to Recreation director Tony Liberatore.
There were a few issues that had to be sorted out before the council passed the resolution, which was sponsored by Councilman Steve Stycos.
The financial debate regarded the former proposed ordinance that included the utilization of eastern recreational impact fees to help pay for the park. This was removed from the new resolution, however, and the city won’t be footing any of the bill to pay for the construction of the park.
Another issue was whether or not the entire plot of land – which Liberatore estimated to be between 700 and 1,000 square feet at the Council meeting Monday night – would be used for the dog park or if another basketball court would be built as well. The Recreation department decided that the land would be used solely for a new dog park, and nixed the additional basketball court.
The final issue was whether the park would be for small dogs, big dogs, or split into two sections to include both. The plan now, Liberatore explained at the meeting, is to split the dog park into two sections with a swinging gate connecting the two in case the size of the two sections end up being too small.
One side of the park will be open to dogs under 35 pounds and the other side will be open to dogs over 35 pounds.
As the Council discussed the resolution for a final time before a vote, city solicitor Chris Rawson suggested that because the project didn’t require additional city funding (impact fees), it should be changed into a resolution, which was done during the meeting.
The fact that it didn’t require city fees also prompted some to question why it needed to be discussed at all, but Councilman John Lanni asked the question: can the recreational department do anything it wants without Council approval as long as city funds aren’t being used?
Liberatore wouldn’t be involved in any decision like that, but he did say that funds for a future dog park at Stony Acre, which Lanni and Councilman Steve Stycos both expressed support of at the meeting, would be written into the upcoming Parks and Recreation capital budget for 2018-19.
The funding for the Beachmont dog park, however, will come through the Dream Center. Liberatore said that the timeframe to build the park would be about three months and would begin “around late March or early April.”