Arts & Leisure

Monkton dog park takes shape

SOME MEMBERS AND friends of the Monkton Community Dog Park Committee and their hopeful canine companions take a photo break in the proposed dog park area this past August. Permission and funds have been gathered for fencing of the dog area in Morse Park next month. Pictured from left are Bob Radler and Peak, Cathie Buscaglia and Charlee, Paul Lowe, Deb Gaynor and Flynn, Corine Farewell and Caro, and Callie Brynn and Cora. Photo by Buzz Kuhns

MONKTON — A few weeks from now, when the first canine residents of northern Addison County and surrounding areas suddenly find themselves unleashed in Monkton’s brand-new dog park, their snuffling, howling, wagging, zoomy pleasures will be quite a sight to see.
No doubt their owners will also be pleased, especially those who over the years have spent countless hours transporting dogs-going-bonkers to parks in Middlebury or Shelburne or even Burlington.
Once complete, the Monkton Community Dog Park will occupy just under one acre of Morse Park south of the Rec Field parking lot off Pond Road. Organizers expect to start putting up fencing in early November. The project has been a labor of love for longtime Monkton resident Cathie Buscaglia.
“I have 13 acres to walk my dogs on, but I really like for them to socialize,” said Buscaglia, who chairs the eight-member dog park committee and who has spent her fair share of time in those faraway dog parks.
Socialization among dogs is really important, especially for puppies, said fellow committee member Deb Gaynor. They learn “bite control” from older dogs and they learn how to socialize with the dogs they encounter during walks. Owners learn things, too, like how to manage relationships among dogs and how to recognize the difference between an “I’m playing” growl and a “back off!” growl.
Having a place to convene free-for-all doggie playdates also gives owners a chance to socialize among themselves, Buscaglia said. The committee also hopes the new park will solve a couple of existing issues in Morse Park.
“At all times of the year you can find hearty Monktonites out on the path enjoying the views and visiting with each other as they make a loop around the park,” the group wrote in Monkton’s 2019 town report. “Many of our neighbors also walk their dogs on these paths. While most follow the town leash laws and keep their canine companions properly under control, there are times when the desire to let dogs run and play together lends itself to breaking the leash law. We believe that the creation of a designated off-leash area will reduce the incidence of dogs running free in the Morse Park area, which infringes on the enjoyment of runners, walkers and others, and creates a dog waste problem around the park.”
As an interim measure, the dog park committee has installed a waste station near the parking area, so dog walkers will have access to bags and disposal.
The project, which got its start in 2018, has advanced rather quickly in the past few months, despite the pandemic, Buscaglia and Gaynor said. Much of that can be attributed to successful fundraising. “We wanted to do this through community support rather than ask people to pay more taxes,” Buscaglia said.
In August the group held a socially distanced informational event at Morse Park, where curious residents could see the proposed site and learn more about the project. By that point the committee had obtained approval from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and the town selectboard. Since then they’ve received approval of location and conformance with an existing easement from the Vermont Housing Conservation Board.
In less than two months the group has raised nearly $6,000 — enough to start ordering materials to build the park. “We’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of our local businesspeople,” Gaynor said. “Without them we’d have been fundraising for years.”
Buscaglia agreed. “It’s commendable, considering our current economic conditions,” she said. “It’s not an easy time to be asking people for money, and people have been incredibly generous — and they would say (the dog park) is as much about community-building as it is about dogs.”
The Monkton Community Dog Park will be enclosed by 5-feet-high fencing, and there will be a chain-link entry paddock. “You come into the paddock, close the outside door, unleash your dog, open the inside door, then your dog shoots into the park,” Gaynor said with a laugh. “And you follow, more slowly, picking up some poop bags on the way in.”
Eventually the committee would like to divide the park into two segments — one for larger (or highly active) dogs, and one for smaller (or more timid) dogs. Longer term, they’re hoping to build benches, a tool shed and something to provide shade on hot, sunny days.
Organizers estimate there could be as many as 2,000 dogs living in the park’s vicinity, but it’s hard to predict how many will visit regularly. “Maybe one in 10? One in 20?” said Gaynor.
Even with the lower estimate — 100 doggie regulars — the park could very quickly turn into a Monkton hotspot.
For more information about the Monkton Community Dog Park, or to make an online donation, visit tinyurl.com/y39sme6m.

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