Middlebury to get a dog park

MIDDLEBURY — It looks like Middlebury dog owners will soon have a two-acre, fenced-off park in which to recreate with their four-legged friends.
Barring unforeseen legal or insurance-related complications, the new dog park will be created on Middlebury College-owned land located near the Middlebury Regional EMS headquarters and Charter House community garden off South Street. A group of local dog owners has been lobbying for a safe, local, off-leash location for their pets to run and play.
Those advocates, including resident Jane Steele, approached the Middlebury Parks & Recreation Department and the college to see if an appropriate site could be made available.
Steele and fellow supporters checked out several potential sites before college officials offered up the two acres adjacent to the Porter Medical Center campus. Supporters reasoned it would be a great location for a dog park because it is removed from the road and is proximate to an existing driveway and spacious parking lot that serves Middlebury Regional EMS and Porter. Having to add those amenities would have significantly increased the cost of a dog park, they reasoned.
Middlebury College has offered to lease the property to the town for five years for $1, with the potential for a five-year renewal.
Dog park boosters shared the news with the Middlebury selectboard during their Tuesday meeting. Board members were receptive to the idea, but want the town’s attorney to check the lease and ensure there is adequate insurance coverage for the park, noting the potential for dog bites. Plans call for the park to be covered under the Parks & Recreation Department’s policy.
“I think this is a great initiative to get started on,” selectboard Chairman Dean George said.
Meanwhile, organizers will stay busy raising funds for a fence to surround the park, which will contain separate areas for large and small dogs.
“Our intent is not to put a burden on taxpayers,” said park supporter Drew Campbell.
Organizers are also planning for the regular removal of dog waste from the site, as well as signs for the park.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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