By Paul Tennant
HAVERHILL — The city's top choice for a dog park is a trail area near Plug Pond.
City leaders will meet with neighbors to get their feelings on the plan.
The city's Dog Park Committee has recommended that the park be at Plug Pond, a popular swimming, boating and fishing spot. The park would incorporate a series of trails at the rear of the pond. Those trails are not used much by the public and they are in "fairly good shape," said lawyer Thomas Sullivan, who is chairman of the committee.
The nearest residential area to the proposed dog park is Dwight Street — several hundred yards away. Another location near Plug Pond that could be used as a dog park/dog trail is the area to the right of the rear parking lot, Sullivan said.
The American Legion farm on upper Main Street is the committee's second choice, Sullivan said. Committee members preferred Plug Pond to the legion farm because the pond area is farther away from homes, Sullivan said.
"I endorse it; I like it; I support it," Mayor James Fiorentini said of the Plug Pond location.
He added he intends to schedule a meeting with Dwight Street residents and other neighbors to hear their views.
He said dog owners he has spoken with are "very enthusiastic" about the proposal.
The park will be an area where dog owners can allow their pets to run free as long as they are well behaved and responsive to the owners. For months, dog owners have called on city leaders to establish a park, like the ones created in other communities.
Earlier this year, Sullivan said he hoped the committee would recommend a site by late May and have the park operating this summer.
Haverhill's first attempt at establishing a dog park was thwarted last fall after people residing near that site, a strip of land between Winnekenni Park and Plug Pond, objected.
The mayor said there is no way the city budget will be tapped to pay for a dog park. Sullivan and his committee propose having the dog owners themselves pay for the park, possibly by purchasing stickers through the Recreation Department.
Seventy percent of dog owners who re-registered their dogs this year said they supported the idea of a park where their pets could run without leashes. Of those people, 75 percent said they would be willing to pay for it, Sullivan said.
"Plug Pond is the best idea yet," said City Councilor David Hall, who objected to the original Winnekenni Park proposal because of neighbors' complaints. "There is plenty of parking, it's all city land and it won't affect any neighbors."
Hall suggested volunteers, possibly inmates from the Correctional Alternative Center in Lawrence, could clean up the trails before owners start having their dogs run along them.
Sullivan also said the dog park/dog trail would need rules, such as requiring owners to pick up their pets' feces and keep their pets under control.
Serving on the committee with Sullivan were Assistant City Clerk Richard Barber and Christopher Ouellette.
The committee also considered the Hannah Duston Rest Area on Route 110, the Millvale Conservation Area and Johnson Pond, but concluded those areas were either too close to homes, did not have adequate parking or would cost to much to transform into a dog park.
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