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New South Hadley Dog Park offers room for Rover to ramble

  • Murphy runs to his owners, Carol and Bob Cameron with Cooper in the back ground at the South Hadley dog park. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jeff Squire, a member of the Friends of South Hadley Dog Park as well as a landscape architect and co-owner of Berkshire Design Group who worked on the dog park, fixes the water fountain at the new park in South Hadley.

  • Shay, in front, owned by Mary Kearney, and Cooper, owned by Bob and Carol Cameron, greet each other Thursday at the new dog park. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • left, Carol Cameron, her dog Cooper at the top of the steps as Brenda Mathieu and her dog Minnie make their way up at the South Hadley dog park Thursday, October 15, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • left, Murphy, middle, Minnie and Cooper play at the South Hadley dog park Thursday, October 15, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bob Cameron pauses at the top of the stairs Thursday at the South Hadley Dog Park as several pooches get acquainted. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Cooper, who was at the South Hadley dog park with his owners, Carol and Bob Cameron, Thursday, October 15, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Minnie, who was at the South Hadley dog park with her owner, Brenda Mathiew, Thursday, October 15, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS



Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 27, 2020

SOUTH HADLEY — Dogs and their humans have a new space to get outside and socialize with the opening of the South Hadley Dog Park, a project almost three years in the making. 

Located off Mulligan Drive, the dog park, which has fountains and offers about 1.8 acres of land for dogs to run, play and socialize, has separate areas for small dogs and large dogs.

The park opened with little fanfare due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Jeff Squire, the park’s landscape architect and a South Hadley resident, and had a soft opening last week. But word quickly spread, and the park has “gotten a lot of use so far,” Squire said. Squire heads the Northampton-based Berkshire Design Group and is also a member of the Friends of South Hadley Dog Park, the 501(c) charitable organization that spearheaded the creation of the dog park.

Brenda Mathieu, president of the Friends of South Hadley Dog Park, said on Thursday that she has visited the park daily since its opening and counted a total of more than 90 dogs across her visits. That afternoon, another handful of owners brought their dogs to the park. 

Before the opening of the park, area dog owners without yards did not have in-town options for letting their dogs play off leash.

“Having a fenced-in, off-leash park makes a difference,” Squire said. “You don’t have to worry about your  dog. They can run around, socialize.”

This  socialization aspect is “almost as much for humans as it is for the dogs,” Mathieu added. On Thursday, Mathieu’s 3-year-old basset hound, Minnie, accompanied her to the park. 

After a years-long process, “it’s just a fabulous feeling to have it open,” Mathieu said. Proponents faced some opposition to the proposed location’s proximity to Ledges Golf Course and needed to secure funding from the Stanton Foundation in order to make the park possible.

The Stanton Foundation funds up to $25,000 in design costs for dog parks, and up to 90% of construction expenses. At a special Town Meeting in 2019, the town agreed to match the Stanton Foundation's grant and finance other costs related to the park. Going forward, the Friends of South Hadley Dog Park will continue to fundraise and seek donations to cover maintenance costs without affecting taxpayers, according to the group’s website.

But so far, the opening has gone smoothly, according to Mathieu. 

Dog owners at the park Wednesday had high praise for the project.

Kevin Pelletier of Chicopee brought his puppy, Bindi, to the park to allow her to play off-leash and become familiar with being around other dogs — an opportuntity that she does not often have outside her socialization class, which allows for brief periods off leash.

Pelletier also plans to enroll Bindi in more training classes and wants her “to feel comfortable with all sizes of dogs first.”

Bob and Carol Cameron of South Hadley visited the dog park for the fourth or fifth time Wednesday with their two goldendoodles, Cooper and Murphy.

Bob said that he initially had some doubts about a dog park in town, but changed his mind when he saw the finished project.

“I wasn’t a dog park advocate before, but they’ve done a marvelous job here,” he said. 

Many of the dog owners said they appreciated the opportunity to take their dogs off leash for socialization, as well as the project’s location and landscaping.

The park features New England native plans from Nasami Farm Nursery Native Plant Trust in Whately and has view of the mountains.

Ashley Miller of South Hadley visited the park Wednesday with her own dog, Bentley, as well as two of her clients’ dogs, Bo and Esther. As a pet owner and dog walker, Miller said that the park is “really convenient and nice” to have as a South Hadley resident. Previously, her closest option was Dufresne Park in Granby,  which required more travel time to access. Miller said that she also appreciated the park’s size, its separate areas for small and large dogs, and its fountains, which she said she has not seen at a dog park before. 

The park is currently open year-round, weather permitting, though it will likely not be plowed this year.