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Rogers Street Couple: If You Build This Dog Park, We Will Sue!

Jun 26, 2015 12:42PM ● By Bill Gilman

Town Manager Richard Montuori fields questions from residents following his presentation regarding the town's dog park proposal.

A Rogers Street couple has threatened to sue to the town if they push forward with a proposal to build a one-acre municipal dog park inside Melvin Rogers Park.
Frank and Ruth Teague, who live at 90 Rogers St., were among nearly 40 residents who attended a public meeting Thursday night at the Senior Center, hosted by Town Manager Richard Montuori. The purpose of the meeting was to go over the town's plans for the dog park, which is being funded through a $236,000 grant from the Stanton Foundation, and to give residents a chance to ask questions and provide feedback.
Many local dog owners in attendance expressed support for the project but several residents of Rogers Street, Marston Street and Kennedy Road expressed opposition to the dog park being built in a heavily residential neighborhood. None were more vociferous than the Teague's, who passionately argued that a fenced in dog park would ruin the 27.5-acre Melvin Rogers Park. According to the Teague's, the Rogers family intended for the land to be kept as conservation land and to be used for passive recreational use, with nothing more than walking paths.
"The deeds say clearly the land is to be used for recreational use only by the citizens of Tewksbury," said Frank Teague. "It doesn't say anything about a dog park!"
The Teagues said back in 1997, they had researched deeds to the Rogers Park property from 1946 and 1959, as part of an effort to fight then-Town Manager David Cressman's efforts to build a 40B project on the land. They said they would fight equally hard to stop a dog park from being built there.
"If these deeds are violated, we will hire an attorney and we will sue the town to protect and preserve (Rogers Park)," said Ruth Teague. "We will spend our retirement fighting this in court."
"And we have the money to do it, too," added Frank Teague.
At one point, as Frank Teague tried to talk over Montuori and other residents, Montuori asked him to give other residents a chance to speak and ask questions or he would be asked to leave.
Montuori stressed, several times, that no final decisions had been made regarding the location or design of the dog park and that this was simply a first meeting to provide information and get feedback from the public.
Representing the town, along with Montuori, were Selectman Jim Wentworth and Senior Center Director Ashley Springman.
During his 20-minute Powerpoint presentation, Montuori explained the Stanton Foundation and grant process, went over desired features for the dog park and explained why Rogers Park was viewed as a good location.
Montuori said the park, which would have sections for large and small dogs, would be reserved for Tewksbury residents only, though he said a method for enforcing that had not been determined.
Preliminary ideas call for the park to have parking for 20 cars, double-gated entries, walking paths, benches, drinking fountains, a sanitation station, agility equipment and a message board.
Several residents of the neighborhood around Rogers Park said they had no objection to a dog park but rather to the location.
"I live in a house right next to where you want to put the park. There is going to be barking. What if I want to eat outside on my porch or open my windows?" said Wayne Geiser. "(The dog park) is going to be right under my bedroom window."
The Teague's also argued the five-foot high fence that would enclose the dog park would be detrimental to wildlife that inhabit Rogers Park or cross it on migrational paths.
"That's unacceptable!" said Frank Teague. "A deer's going to run into that fence. That's unacceptable. They run into my car now."
Bill Mucica said he anticipates a dog park would drive down property values in the neighborhood and that those who live in the area impacted should have veto power over the location of the park.
"I think the people who live in that neighborhood should be allowed to determine their own destiny," he said. "We should have a right to determine if a dog park foes in that neighborhood."
Springman assured Mucica that no determination of location for the dog park has been made.
"Nothing is on paper. There is no plan yet. It's really hypothetical," she said. "The location is very hypothetical. We want to take into consideration everyone's feelings."
While the Stanton grant will pay for construction of the dog park, ongoing maintenance will have to be paid for through fundraising. Montuori is proposing establishment of a "Friends of the Tewksbury Dog Park" group to raise money and volunteer their time to maintain the park. At least three dog owners at the meeting volunteered to serve on such a group.
At one point, the discussion turned from the dog park itself to the condition of Rogers Park presently. Some of the residents complained it has become a place for teens to drink and for drug dealers to do business. Montuori said there are plans to address those issues.
"Setting the dog park aside for the moment, we want to make improvements to the (walking) trails in the park," said Montuori. "We want to make better lines of site so that people can move safely. We want to make improvements all the way around."
The proposed park improvements met with approval from all in attendance.

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