Wednesday, March 25, 2009

MayDOG meets Maynard town

As a quick background, I'm on the board of a non-profit called MayDOG in the town I live in Maynard and we are in the process of trying to create a dog park in our little town. Lisa, who spear heads the efforts has done a great job collecting data and finding good examples from other towns that have successfully created dog parks.

So yesterday, after many months of Lisa doing the research and talking with all the people she could, we had our day with the Board of Selectman and it was a unique experience. The board was made of 5 people with different backgrounds. Lisa was given the floor and was able to explain her research and show how it would impact the community of Maynard and the surrounding towns.

Now I'll take into account that this is only the second time I've been at a meeting like this and the general running of towns and cities is a real unknown to me. What was so funny was that after her presentation, they had a conversation with each other about the proposal almost like we (which was only 3 of us) wasn't even there. I would say that on one level there was some positive response to the prospect of a dog park. What was so funny was that they then when back and forth looking for ways to keep it from happening. Now I get that they have to way all the options and considering every angle but it didn't seem like that to me.

Each pulled there different way of shooting down the idea. One selectman was all about money and city time. His view was that the city would not allow any town resources into any further research. Another selectman, who is the insurance industry, said that the town would have to know that the liability to the town would be none before he would approve of it.

And everyone was afraid of the DEP (dept of environmental Protection). As soon as that was brought up, you could see that they all had experience with the DEP and it wasn’t a smooth one.

Then the issue was that it wasn’t their top priority. There have been other recreation or park requests over the years that they haven’t been able to do. They said they had to consider those people before dogs. What was interesting was that a solar farm has been suggested for the same area that MayDOG is looking at and that seems to trump any public recreation area for anyone.

I get that they are suppose to think of the best interest of the town but, even though no one was flat out against the park, no one wanted to take a stand for the park either. Many of there arguments were week. Requiring no liability for the town is completely unreasonable. Anyone could hurt themselves anywhere in the town and some over zealous lawyer could try to sue the town for it. That the city wouldn’t offer to help in any way. Not a phone call, not a helpful suggestion, nothing. Lisa already met with one board member so even the busiest town employee could make some time for guidance if nothing else. Then there is the dreaded DEP. If they only try to find things not to do, then that would be a problem.

Seems to my narrow point of view that this group is trying to represent the town like it’s an individual. If someone represents me, the individual, my own interests come ahead of everyone else. But the town isn’t a person. It’s a place that a group of people reside. The town should support the group as a whole. For those who speak up, make requests of the town, it makes sense that the town would want to help out that group or groups within the group so long as it doesn’t take away from anyone else. Looking into the possibility of making something happen maybe more work but it is the more socially oriented way of approaching an issue. If you start from all the reasons it won’t work, it’s much less work but offers so much less for the community.

The park idea has issues that still need to be resolved and we need to continue searching out those issues and looking at all possible options at our disposal. At this point, the town agrees that MayDOG can continue pursuing this option as long as the town doesn’t have to support it in any way. They did make some good points and brought up some things to consider but I would hope that any town that has residents bring ideas that could strengthen the community would consider all that it takes to make something happen instead of finding all the ways to keep something from happening.

You can read MayDOG's response on their website blog.

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