Last spring, Arlington Town Meeting passed a substitute motion sponsored by A-DOG Town Meeting Members. This bylaw change, now taking effect, allows dogs off leash, under owner control, in parks under Parks and Recreation Commission authority. Certain areas are excluded, including parks right next to school buildings, near playground equipment, and any other site by exclusion of the Parks and Recreation Commission. See further details here. As we told our members when the program began, this is “a great step for responsible dog owners in Arlington! Please continue to exercise and to encourage responsible practices, including honoring the legal morning hours.” According to the records maintained by the Parks and Recreation Commission, there have been a relatively small number of complaints about the program (approximately 25, made by about 15 individuals, one of whom is responsible for over 25% of the compaints), and an approximately equal number of positive reports. Reports from the Animal Control Officer have been similar, citing few incidents and complaints.
Nonetheless, the Board of Selectmen (who, in a 4-1 vote, opposed our proposal for Article 36 at last year’s hearing ) is now considering a “probation” plan for Robbins Farm Park and Menotomy Rocks Park, though it is not clear what that means. It has been suggested, including by one Selectman at the meeting, that future actions could include suspending off-leash activity at both parks. That Selectmen has also stated that Robbins and Menotomy are in a “crisis” situation. The recent “probation” discussion appears to have been precipitated by a lengthy complaint, made by an individual who has consistently opposed off-leash recreation at Robbins, presented to the Board of Selectmen at their February 7, 2011 meeting. A video of this meeting is available here. In a followup meeting, March 14, the Selectmen said that, based on the Parks and Rec Commission recommendation, they will not at this time institute a “probation”, but some of them have alleged that they receive many complaints (one said that she doesn’t pass on 2/3 of the complaints she receives) to support the “crisis” status of Robbins and Menotomy that they are not making available to the public. After at least one resident stated that making rulings based on secret information is not fair to the public (we do have Open Meeting Law governing our public process), one Selectman agreed to pass on any information she can in order to increase transparency. (There was further animated discussion at this meeting, which will also soon be made available to the public as a video.)
Another item brought up by members of the public was the need for some afternoon off-leash hours. This will require a new vote from TM so we urge present and future TM members to get involved in this effort!