by Michael Bielawski
MONTPELIER — A new slew of dog-related incidents in Hubbard Park has prompted a divisive debate over dog safety policy, going on for years, but there may be an end in sight. The city council at its meeting Aug. 23 approved a proposal, put forth by mayor John Hollar, to set a final six-month window for the Parks Commission to recommend a definitive dog-safety policy for the park.
Hollar began the topic by citing a couple of direct interactions he’s had on this matter, including a “heartfelt email” from a family with three kids.
“They live adjacent to Hubbard Park and they won’t let their kids go up there because they are afraid of the dogs,” Hollar said.
He also shared a friend’s experience.
“My friend’s dog was found with its head inside of the mouth of a larger dog,” he said. “My friend was able to chase away the attacking dog.”
In conclusion, he proposed the six-month deadline for a final solution.
“It’s just not a tenable situation right now, there are too many conflicts it seems to me,” Hollar said.
A handful of ideas were floated around, but none were settled on during this meeting.
“That would either be a fenced in area, designated paths for dogs, or some kind of segregation within the park so that people who don’t want to interact with dogs can enjoy it,” Hollar said.
Parks Commission member Sarah Swenson, who is also on the dog ordinance committee, told the council that at the committee’s final meeting it was determined that the parks commission should get more time to form a solution.
City Manager William Fraser agreed that this must get done, finally.
“If you approve this, now we’ve dealt with street sidewalks and bike paths within the city,” he said. “I think at this point, the major piece that’s left is the parks.”
Council member Dona Bate suggested the council and commission work more closely together.
“I think it would be helpful for a couple of us to commit to meet with them and talk with them and be part of that process,” she said.
The council approved the six-month target for the parks commission to offer a formal recommendation to settle this contentious debate.
Michael Bielawski is a freelance reporter for The Bridge. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.