Future dog park in Amherst gets design grant

  • Visits to Greenfield’s dog park in 2016. The town of Amherst is moving ahead with a dog park of its own on an old landfill on the south side of Belchertown Road. A Cambridge company recently awarded the town a grant to design the park. RECORDER STAFF

Staff Writer
Friday, July 27, 2018

AMHERST — The town’s first dog park is taking another step toward becoming reality with the awarding of a grant from a private foundation based in Cambridge.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said Tuesday that The Stanton Foundation, which gives up to 10 design grants annually, has informed Amherst officials that the town will receive $25,000 to pay for the design of the dog park. The dog park would be built on the capped former landfill on the south side of Belchertown Road.

“That’s really good news, and kudos to Dave Ziomek and the Dog Park Committee for getting through the process,” Bockelman said.

Ziomek, Amherst’s assistant town manager, said the grant will give the town cost estimates for the project and the bid documents for the construction phase. The project is envisioned as going on 2 acres of the site, and will have both a small dog area and a big dog area.

Bockelman said the design grant also sets the stage for obtaining a construction grant for about $90,000 from Stanton, matching a Town Meeting appropriation from the Community Preservation Act account. Stanton has supported construction of enclosed dog parks in several communities, including Agawam, Greenfield and Ludlow.

Ziomek is confident that the dog park should be ready sometime next year.

“Our goal will be to open in 2019,” he said.

As much as 85 percent of the 53-acre landfill site will be reserved as a permanent habitat for the endangered grasshopper sparrow, a condition of placing solar panels on the other capped landfill on the north side of Belchertown Road. The state’s Department of Environmental Protection is mandating a reuse study to make sure the dog park is a compatible use of the site.

Another project that should get underway this year is bringing a spray park, new play structures and a rebuilt pavilion to Groff Park in South Amherst. The Planning Board approved the site plans from Berkshire Design Group of Northampton at its July 18 meeting, while the Conservation Commission began review of the work that will continue at a meeting in August.

Ziomek said because some of the work is within 200 feet of the Fort River, the commission is seeking some compensation for the habitat, which will include modest ecological improvements such as new native plantings and erosion control.

The Groff Park project will be done in two phases, with electrical, plumbing and concrete work starting this fall, and next spring the elements of the spray park and the play structures being installed. The aim is to have everything complete in June.

When finished, there will also be new walkways, benches and picnic tables at the site.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.