What is the Amherst Dog Park?

When constructed, the Amherst Dog Park will be a simple yet high-quality enclosed space to promote off-leash play in a well-maintained and safe environment. There will be two separate fenced-in areas, one for small dogs and one for large dogs. Both spaces will feature paved pedestrian walkways, benches, and shade structures. Varying ground cover, such as natural turf, sand, pea stone, and boulders, will provide ample opportunities for dogs to explore. Two dog water stations, and cleaning supplies, including covered garbage cans and waste bags, will be available. The Park will not have artificial lighting nor public restroom facilities.

The Amherst Dog Park will be open year round, from dawn to dusk, and will be free to all visitors. As a public recreational area, the park will be ADA compliant.

Why does Amherst need a dog park?

There are 1,610 dogs licensed in the town of Amherst. Despite this number, there remains a lack of dog parks in the surrounding geographic area. The nearest public dog parks are in Agawam, Granby, and Greenfield, all a 30-minute drive from downtown Amherst. Plans were recently unveiled for a new, private dog park sited on 18 acres in Northampton, but a high annual membership fee will exclude many families from joining.

Research supports the public health and safety benefits of community dog parks. Off-leash play areas allow dogs to exercise and socialize safely, while also encouraging people to be outside and moving. Dog parks promote responsible dog ownership and make it easier for a town to enforce its leash laws and licensing requirements. Most importantly, dog parks are ideal locations for dog people to meet others with common interests. The love people share for their dogs reaches beyond economic and social barriers and helps foster a sense of community. A public dog park in Amherst will enhance the livability of a town already rich in culture, education, and open space. 

Where is the Amherst Dog Park?

The Amherst Dog Park will be located on 1.5 acres of town-owned property along the southwest side of Old Belchertown Road, off Route 9. The property is on an old landfill in a non-residential area with proximity to a public water supply. Twenty off-street parking spaces, including two handicap spaces, will be constructed.

When will the Amherst Dog Park open?

Construction began in the summer of 2021, with an expected completion in spring or summer 2022.

How much will the Amherst Dog Park cost?

Although cost estimates are not fixed, it is projected the Amherst Dog Park will cost $347,000, the majority of which has already been secured (see below).In addition to the hard construction costs of fencing, grading, paving and landscaping, other expenses include $65,000 for a Department of Environmental Protection Reuse Study, required for any project built on capped landfill; $5,000 for town surveys; $25,000 for design; and $20,000 for a 10% match of construction costs provided by the Stanton Foundation.

Who is paying for the Amherst Dog Park?

Funding for the Amherst Dog Park is coming from multiple sources.

In February 2018, Amherst Town Meeting authorized $90,000 in Community Preservation Act funds toward park preparation, including surveys, detailed landscape plans, and a Department of Environmental Protection Reuse Study.

Also in 2018, the Stanton Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports the development of enclosed dog parks in Massachusetts, awarded the town a $25,000 design grant to plan the park. The Stanton Foundation recently gave another grant for $225,000 to fund 90% of the dog park’s hard construction costs, including labor and materials. The Stanton Foundation has supported 30 dog parks across the state, including those in Agawam, Greenfield, and Ludlow.

In the fall of 2021 the Amherst Town Council authorized an additional $75,000 to cover unexpected costs related to the protection of the landfill cap.

While the Stanton Foundation grant will cover construction of the Amherst Dog Park, additional funds are needed for amenities such as benches, water stations, and shade structures.  

Is there a fee to use the Amherst Dog Park?

The Amherst Dog Park will be free and open to the public year round, from dawn to dusk. The Amherst Dog Park will serve the entire population of Amherst and its visitors. It may be enjoyed by any dog with a valid license.

Who will maintain the Amherst Dog Park?

Before opening, a Friends of the Amherst Dog Park group will be established to help care for the site, similar to the friends groups that help maintain Puffers Pond, Mount Pollux, and the Town Common. The Friends group may host “Dog Park Do’s and Don’ts” workshops when it opens and organize park clean up days at the beginning of each season. It will also be the responsibility of the Friends group to continually supply the park with waste bags and other necessities. The group will enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the town of Amherst detailing expectations and responsibilities with the aim of minimizing the impact on town resources.

The Amherst Dog Park Task Force will establish a management plan to serve as good stewards of the recreational property. The Task Force is exploring sustainable waste management options, such as an anaerobic digester or composting system, to reduce the impact of dog waste on the environment. It will ensure the property retains as many large-growth trees as possible and that the land drains properly to prevent standing water. Since securing CPA funding, the land will be preserved for “open space” purposes in perpetuity.

Who is designing the Amherst Dog Park?

The town hired Peter Wells of Berkshire Design Group to design the Amherst Dog Park. Berkshire Design Group is an award-winning firm of landscape architects, civil engineers, and land surveyors headquartered in Northampton, MA, with experience designing dog parks.

How can I help the Amherst Dog Park?

The Friends of the Amherst Dog Park will need many volunteers! Information can be found on our website, amherstdogpark.org. And don’t forget to like our Facebook page, Friends of Amherst Dog Park.   

What is the Amherst Dog Park Task Force and who serves on it?  

The Amherst Dog Park Task Force was established in 2017 with a mission to shepherd the process of establishing a public dog park in town and to make recommendations to the Town Manager based on its findings.
In spring 2017, from a large applicant pool, Town Manager Paul Bockleman appointed nine members to the Task Force; they are: Nina Allen, Mike Chesworth (Secretary), Ana Devlin Gauthier, Ted Diamond (Vice Chair), Kaye Dougan, Gina Fusco, Jack Jemsek, Ellen Keiter, and Jim Pistrang (Chair). Three non-voting members also serve on the Task Force: Dave Ziomek, Director of Conservation and Development; Carol Hepburn, Amherst Animal Welfare Officer.