The Trails Committee at its meeting Wednesday discussed having a community forum to educate dog owners about the town’s leash law and get resident feedback on potential areas where dogs may be able to be unleashed.
Chair Peter LaGoy explained that some residents aren’t aware of the town’s leash law. They also might not realize that some people are fearful of dogs, particularly when the dogs are unleashed.
Member Janine LeBlanc disagreed, saying residents should know they are supposed to leash and clean up after their dogs.
Said LeBlanc: “I don’t think that public outreach and education is going to change their behavior.”
LaGoy and member Chuck Dauchy stressed that some people are legitimately afraid of dogs because they were previously attacked. Some dog owners might not recognize this because they perceive their dogs as being friendly. Signage could be helpful to make everyone more aware.
“Somebody made the point at the last Town Meeting that in the dog park, all those dogs that are off leash are violating the leash law,” LaGoy said.
Member Krisanne Connell suggested that signs that specify both allowable and improper behavior be posted on trails so that the committee “doesn’t become known as the mean trail police.” At the forum, which is being planned for January, she suggested that a sticky board be used for suggestions so that people feel invested in the process in a non-contentious way. She volunteered to facilitate this activity.
Other ideas included holding a virtual forum in addition to the in-person one and allowing for written comments to be submitted to the Trails Committee. A survey also was suggested.
Getting town feedback on potential areas where dogs could be unleashed for designated periods of time would be helpful in gauging the town’s response to possible modifications to the leash law. Committee members suggested reaching out to people through the Senior Center, the library and area veterinarians, as well as through the town website and local media.
Enforcement of the law also was discussed. LaGoy noted that the town only has one animal control officer.
Modification to Scout fitness equipment project proposed
The committee heard from Scout Srivar Yerramsetti about the plan he presented last month for installing fitness equipment off of Center Trail just north of the Loop Road intersection. This equipment will include a sit-up bench, pull-up bars, horizontal bars and a balance beam that will be installed in a 30-foot-by-24-foot area.
LaGoy suggested that the configuration of the area for the fitness equipment be parallel to the trail there because the ground is flatter. It is currently designed to be perpendicular to it. Yerramsetti was amenable to shifting the proposed site.
LaGoy added that the equipment request has been submitted to Town Hall. Installation is expected to begin in the spring.
Trails Committee approves its CPC funding requests
The committee voted unanimously to approve the requests it made to the Community Preservation Committee for funding for its proposed projects.
The Open Space Preservation Commission joined the Trails Committee on a joint application to purchase two properties owned by Eversource located at and to the south of Berry Acres. This would allow for a future trail connection that would link the apartment complex off Lumber Street with Berry Acres and the school area. Eversource has not yet said if the properties are for sale.
The two groups also jointly filed a request to purchase land owned by MetroWest Holdings near the Milford border. LaGoy said there may be an opportunity for the town to take the property because of back taxes owed on it.
Separately, the Trails Committee requested $60,000 from the recreation fund to finish the second phase of the Chamberlain Trail.
Trail accessibility discussed
LaGoy also discussed the desire for trail accessibility. He has been involved in discussions with Commission on Disability member Alex Danahy about having Braille markings on trail signage. He also suggested possibly having a wheelchair available for use through the library of things at the Hopkinton Public Library to use on the trails.
Said LaGoy: “It’s things for us to be thinking about as a team.”