Organizers are putting final touches on plan for Middlebury dog park

MIDDLEBURY — Organizers of a new Middlebury dog park have jumped through most of the planning hoops for their pet project and are now trying to fetch the $15,000 it will take to buy a fence to encircle the roughly two-acre property adjacent to the Porter Medical Center campus.
The dog park is the brainchild of several Middlebury-area pet owners who have yearned for a safe, local place for pets to frolic off-leash. Kathy Nilsson, vice chairwoman of the Middlebury Dog Park board, said she and many other area residents often take their dogs to special animal parks in Burlington and Ticonderoga, N.Y. Such parks feature fencing, benches and bags to clean up animal waste — amenities that allow pets to romp and socialize with other humans and canines, unfettered by leashes.
“A lot of these dogs need to run,” Nilsson noted.
It was last year that Nilsson and her colleagues banded together to search for a specific spot for a park. They ultimately contacted Middlebury College and Porter Medical Center about having use of a two-acre parcel off South Street near the Middlebury Regional EMS headquarters and Charter House community garden. This led to some talks with the college — which owns the land — along with Porter and Middlebury municipal officials.
Those talks have paid some big dividends, Nilsson confirmed on Thursday. Recent progress includes:
•  A lease — renewable every five years — through which the town will pay the college $1 annually for use of the property as a dog park.
•  Permission for pet owners to use Porter’s back parking lot. Users will turn onto the Middlebury Regional EMS access road, then proceed all the way past the Charter House Coalition’s community garden, to the end of the Porter lot. Signs will designate the parking area, Nilsson said.
•  Satisfaction of Act 250 permitting requirements.
•  An agreement that calls for Casella Waste Management to collect and dispose of dog park waste — for free. The park will include several “poop stations,” from which pet owners can pluck a baggie for their dogs’ waste and dispose of it properly.
•  Acceptance of a bid from Cedar Ledge Fence Co. for $14,995 to provide and install galvanized steel chain-link fencing at the park. The fence will surround approximately 1.75 acres of the park and also divide it into two separate areas for small and large dogs, Nilsson noted. The dog park board has agreed with both the college and the town on where the fencing will be located and how much property would be fenced.
Work on the park won’t start until the needed funds are raised, Nilsson said.
•  A list of rules for the park. The facility will not cater to dogs that are aggressive or that have yet to be spayed/neutered. Animals must also be licensed and have their vaccinations up to date, according to Nilsson. All of the rules will be posted at the gate of the dog park, which will be open during daylight hours, seven days per week.
“It will be by the honor system,” Nilsson said of park use, as there will be no formal supervision.
Organizers are anticipating a dog park review by the Middlebury Development Review Board in the near future. In the meantime, the group has been spreading the word about the upcoming amenity. Nilsson and her colleagues recently held a “meet and greet” session at the Middlebury Regional EMS headquarters to answer neighbors’ questions about the facility.
“We had lots of positive responses and a lot of interest in a local dog park,” Nilsson said of the feedback.
Park boosters are now turning their collective attention to fund raising. And they’re not stopping at $15,000, the cost of the fence. They realize they’ll need annual fundraisers to generate around $500 to $1,000 per year to maintain the grounds, work that will include mowing and mulching. Supporters have vowed to volunteer their time for various maintenance chores.
Nilsson said the group has raised roughly one-third of the $15,000 in just a couple of weeks. She hopes more tax deductible donations steadily come in — payable to the town, with “dog park” on the memo line of the check. The address is 77 Main St., Middlebury, 05753.
Individuals or groups contributing $500 or more will be honored with a permanent plaque that will adorn the park fence. Boosters would love to see sponsors for the small dog section of the park for $5,000, or the large section for $10,000.
“This will be a really good thing for the community,” Nilsson said of the park.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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