Greenfield dog park effort growing
Recorder/Paul Franz Rachel Kashner with Buster Brown and Pam Kinsmith with Tucker on the Greenfield Town Common. The Greenfield women are working to establish a dog park in Greenfield, hopefully at the old Wedgewood Gardens lot.
GREENFIELD — Pam Kinsmith was walking her shepherd-beagle mix Charlotte in September 2012 when the dog darted into the road after a squirrel.
“She got hit by a car and came running back to me, where she died in my arms,” said Kinsmith.
Two months later, Rachael Kashner and her boyfriend Myrt Jaquay-Wilson were hiking with their American Staffordshire terrier Buster Brown in the woods near the water tower in Shelburne Falls, when Buster “saw something and took off.”
Kashner said they looked for Buster for six hours.
“As I was reporting him missing to state police, the officer I was talking with on the phone said a dog had just been struck on Route 2 in the area we’d lost him,” said Kashner.
They couple rushed back to the spot, but found only a blood trail until the officer who was helping spotted their dog curled up in shock in a nearby gully. Buster had a shattered leg.
Both women said their dogs were off leash when they darted, because both were well-trained so they never dreamed there would be a problem.
Kinsmith and Kashner found each other when they heard through friends that the other was advocating for a dog park in Greenfield. They said they thought they’d have more luck if they worked together.
“We both want a place where people can bring their dogs, let them off a leash, and allow them to socialize and play safely,” said Kinsmith.
The women have formed the Paws Park of Greenfield Leadership Committee and are looking for volunteers to join. They have been working with the mayor and the town’s planning and recreation departments to find the perfect spot for the dog park.
They said the former Wedgewood Gardens mobile home park, now known as Miller Meadow Park, is ideal, and the town supports the idea, but there’s a hitch.
Wedgewood flooded several years ago, destroying all of the mobile homes there and forcing the town to turn to the federal government for help.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency gave the town money to buy the property and clean it up, but with help came restrictions.
The town has contacted FEMA with plans for fencing and has been turned down twice. FEMA said the fences would catch too much debris if there was another flood.
“FEMA wants the water to be able to flow freely,” said Kinsmith.
The town’s Recreation Department recently submitted a third proposal for fencing, but has not heard back yet.
State Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, said he would be happy to help, but said the matter really lies with the federal government.
“It’s strictly a federal decision,” said Rosenberg. “The grant money came from the federal government, and so do the restrictions and criteria for what can go there.”
The senator suggested that the women, town officials, and all Greenfield residents who want a dog park on that property, contact U.S. Congressman James P. McGovern.
According to federal laws, a property like that one must be “dedicated and maintained in perpetuity as open space for the conservation of natural floodplain functions,” which means it may be used for passive recreation, wetlands management, nature reserves, cultivation, grazing, unpaved parking lots, and buffer zones.
Richard Verville, a spokesman for FEMA, said the town is going to have to abide by floodplain laws.
“There’s strict guidance,” he said. “The problem with even temporary fencing is that it could be washed away during a flood and that would cause problems elsewhere.”
He said a dog park would be allowed if there with no fence, but Kinsmith and Kashner said that would defeat the purpose.
The women said they are looking to use about five of the 15 acres there.
Eric Twarog, the town’s planning and development director, said he, Mayor William Martin and Recreation Director Christy Moore are all working to find a place.
“We’re at the mercy of FEMA at Wedgewood,” said Twarog.
“A dog park would be part of the town’s economic development,” said Kashner. “People would spend a good amount of time in the downtown area.”
Kashner said she currently brings Buster to Northampton on weekends.
“We go to the dog park, then we have lunch, and sometimes do some shopping,” she said. “That would be wonderful for Greenfield.”
Kashner, who grew up in Greenfield and graduated from the high school, said she lived in Oregon for a while.
“There was a dog park in every neighborhood,” she said. “That’s what I missed most when I moved back here.”
Both woman said they’ve had overwhelming response to their efforts.
“People want this,” said Kinsmith. “We have to find a way to give it to them.”
The two said they are also looking for other properties and have been holding fundraisers to raise money for a park.
Today, Kinsmith walks her 1-year-old dachshund-English shepherd mix Tucker and Kashner walks Buster on leashes, but said they hope they won’t have to much longer.
Paws Park of Greenfield can be found on Facebook.
For more information or to make a donation, contact Kinsmith and Kashner at: firstname.lastname@example.org.