Dog park highlights $1.6 million in CPA requests

  • Amherst is requesting Community Preservation Act money to help it buy a site in town for a new dog park. The town is also looking for financial help from the Stanton Foundation, which helped build this dog park in Greenfield as well as others in Agawam and Ludlow. RECORDER FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Thursday, December 28, 2017

AMHERST — Advocates for creating the town’s first dog park are asking for $200,000 from the Community Preservation Act account to acquire land on which the attraction would be built.

The money being sought by the Amherst Dog Park Task Force is among more than $1.6 million in CPA funding requests submitted this month to the CPA Committee, including projects to provide a range of housing opportunities to residents, renovations to existing recreational sites, improvements to historical buildings and an additional land purchase.

The CPA Committee will soon review the 13 projects before making recommendations to Town Meeting next spring.

Dog Park Task Force Chairman Jim Pistrang said the hope is to identify a site by mid-January.

“There are a few possible private sites that are undergoing an assessment process, and we are also still looking at a few town-owned sites,” Pistrang said.

A town-owned site would likely mean withdrawing or reducing the request.

A dog park will be free to residents and visitors and is expected to be overseen by volunteers. Its construction cost could come from up to $250,000 in grants from the Stanton Foundation, which supports the development of enclosed dog parks in Massachusetts, such as those built in Agawam, Greenfield and Ludlow.

Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek is seeking $113,000 to acquire the 30.4-acre Epstein property, which includes a 7-acre pond and connects to the Mount Holyoke Range, and borders the Sweet Alice Conservation Area.

Previously owned by the late Seymour and Alice Epstein, their heirs are selling the property. The town would combine the CPA money with a $195,000 Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity state grant it has already received.

Other projects

Some of the other CPA requests include:

The Friends of the North Amherst Library, which successfully asked Town Meeting to approve $50,000 to move forward with designs for renovations, is seeking $45,000 to pay for the immediate installation of unisex handicapped accessible bathroom in the 1893 building. The only current bathroom is in the basement and not for use by the public, which prompted a resident to pay for a port-a-potty on site for two months last summer.

The North Amherst Community Farm is asking for $130,000 to preserve and rehabilitate the 1833 farmhouse at 1089 North Pleasant St. This would cover a portion of the full project cost of $400,000 to fix up the Ingram-Dickinson farmhouse.

Leisure Services and Supplemental Education is asking for $50,000 to supplement $50,000 previously appropriated to refurbish the basketball courts at Mill River Recreation Area.

At the same North Amherst site, Amherst Baseball LLC wants $44,500 to purchase shade structures, replace batting cages and install an irrigation system for field maintenance. Included in an earlier plan when $127,351 was approved at Town Meeting in 2015, the project ran out of money before it was completed.

Housing options

Providing housing options is the aim of several requests.

The Amherst Municipal Affordable Housing Trust is asking for $540,000 for two initiatives, one that would potentially acquire the former East Street School and develop it into housing, and the other to support Valley Community Development Corp. with its single-room occupancy project.

Town Meeting last spring changed town zoning to allow such a project to happen.

Laura Baker, real estate project manager for Valley CDC, said the agency is actively looking for a site after it made an offer on a parcel but didn’t acquire it.

“We’re still committed to a project,” Baker said.

An additional $40,000 is being sought by the trust for consulting support.

Amherst Community Connections, an agency that works to help homeless individuals, wants $112,815 for the second phase of its housing stabilization program.

The Amherst Community Land Trust is seeking $266,200 for what it is calling the First Time Home Buyer Assistance Program. Under this program, it would acquire the land on which two low- or middle-income first-time home buyers will be able to buy homes in Amherst.

Other requests include $25,000 for due diligence work to continue identifying land parcels that need to be preserved, $25,000 to replace the main boiler at the Amherst History Museum on Amity Street and $13,580 to continue textile evaluation and care at the museum, a project that began this year but has yet to assess men’s clothing, military uniforms, clothing for children and babies and household textiles.