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'Port Neighbors Not OK with Beach Site for Dog Park

Danversport residents have raised a number of concerns against an abandoned lot at Sandy Beach being considered as the home of the town's new dog park.

Danversport residents bared their teeth once again Tuesday night, letting selectmen know just how unwelcome would be at the location in their neighborhood eyed by proponents of the park.

“Would you like to have it right next to your house?” Joan George said she has asked of proponents of the park.

George, a Town Meeting member of Precinct 3, said her concerns were many, as were those of her fellow ‘Port neighbors – all opposed to having an off-leash dog park at . She’s not against the idea of having a place for dogs, just not in her backyard at the beach or the other roughly 200 residents who live in that neighborhood along River Street.

Joan George’s late husband is former Town Meeting member and Selectman John George, who the park across from the beach was named after and often endearingly referred to as “the Mayor of Danversport.”

George said her major concern was that it was too densely populated of an area and already sees a significant amount of vehicle traffic and use in the summer, both at the and the . She listed off concerns of inadequate parking, the close proximity to residents’ houses, noise from the dogs, some dog walkers who inevitably won’t cleanup after their pooches and several other reasons, all of which she argued would lead to the neighborhood losing a beautiful waterfront area.

According to George, many opponents are concerned about property values.

“Who would want it? You’d have to be stupid to want it,” she said, in regards to the location at the beach, adding that it will attract many residents from other towns as well.

“It’s not for a dog park, it’s for people to enjoy (the beach),” she said, noting the town acquired the land by eminent domain in 1972 for the express purpose of a “bathing beach.”

Fellow Town Meeting member and River Committee member Bill Nicholson joined George in opposing the location of the park.

The effort to develop a dog park – a fenced area where dogs can run and play without a leash – was spearheaded by resident Gail Tyrrell and friends, who approached Recreation Director Dave Mountain last winter. Eventually, a subcommittee formed to investigate the issue by looking at other towns’ dog parks, examining potential locations for a park in town and gauging community support.

Tyrrell and Mountain identified three locations to selectmen last month, chief among those options an abandoned lot at Sandy Beach, which provides nearby parking and bathrooms as well as fencing.

The second choice was the corner of accessed by Dean's Lane and currently used for excess parking during large events. The subcommittee suggested it might be beneficial since the park is already popular with dog walkers.

The third choice was a section of .

The park, surrounded by an eight-foot fence, would be an acre in size and contain three separate areas: a "bullpen" area, and separate grounds for large and small dogs.

George spoke before selectmen Tuesday night, utilizing her opportunity to bring new public business before the board. No one in the audience took the podium to speak in support of the park.

George said she did check out the dog park off North Street in Salem and found it to be a “perfect” spot – no houses, people, nor traffic, and plenty of parking nearby.

George said she would be circulating letters of opposition around the Danversport area as well.

“We are just at the beginning of the process here,” Selectman Michael Powers responded, clarifying that a final site for the park had not been chosen; Sandy Beach was just one of the options.

Powers said the Recreation Committee is following up on the proposal and will review George’s concerns in determining the best site for a stroll with the dog.

The Danvers Dog Park Web site contains more information about the history of the project.

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