ANDOVER — While efforts have been underway to build a dog park in town for years, Selectman Alex Vispoli said he didn't fully understand the need for such a park until a year and half ago when he and his wife got a mixed breed shepherd and beagle, for their 12-year-old son Kevin.
The Vispoli family would take their dog, Tedy — named after former Pats linebacker Tedy Bruschi by Kevin — to other dog parks while traveling but there is no such park close to home, he said.
"It has been in motion for a while," Vispoli said of the dog park plans. "There have been several false starts when it came to getting a group together to raise money for a dog park, and then it kind of stopped."
But Vispoli, the current chairman of the Board of Selectmen, and about four other residents are working to jump start the efforts to privately raise money for the fenced-in park, where dogs can run leash-free and socialize with each other. The group, named the Friends of Andover Dog Park, came together six months ago, Vispoli said.
Exact plans and cost for the park are still being developed, said Tracie Fountas, co-owner of River Road Veterinary Hospital, who is involved with the group. She said the park will both benefit the dogs and their owners, giving them a place to connect while watching their pets run free.
"Where ever you go, you see people walking their dogs in Andover," Fountas said. "People enjoy bringing their dogs places ... while the town has a lot of conservation land to walk dogs, we haven't had a place to let our dogs run off leash."
Nearly 2,500 dogs were licensed in Andover last year, according to the town clerk's office.
The group is looking at several possible sites on town-owned land within the Wood Hill and Bald Hill reservations, located off of High Plain Road and under the control of the Conservation Commission, Vispoli said.
The plan was presented to the Conservation Commission at the beginning of the month, said Bob Douglas, conservation director. He said the commission has shown interest in the park but are waiting for more detailed plans from the group before approving the land to be used for the park.
A plan could be put together in the next month or so that everyone would agree on, Douglas said.
Fountas said the group will start its fundraising efforts when a site is selected and approved by the Conservation Commission.
This will allow to group to share the "bigger picture" of the project, she said.
Vispoli said a previous effort to build a dog park off High Plain Road was blocked because of concerns of illegal dumping nearby the town's leaf composting site.
He said the vision of the group came from the efforts of Animal Control Officer Wayne Nader, who first brought forth the dog park proposal forward in 2007, after several residents expressed interest in finding a venue to exercise their dogs off leash.
A recommendation to build the park for $70,000 was removed from the town's capital improvement plan that year because there was no money in the budget for it, town officials said.
The town's bylaws — which state that dogs can only be off leash on their owner's property — were amended in 2007 to allow for a dog park.
North Andover also has a similar group looking to built a dog park in that town.
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