By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Northborough – Plans for a proposed dog park that would have been located at the Michael P. Yellick Conservation Area have now been cancelled. The news comes after a firestorm of criticism from members of the Yellick family, who still live near the conservation area and others who felt the park would be situated too close to the Assabet River, which runs through the area. Confusion had also ensued between the town and Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) over who ultimately had control over the property- the town, DCR or another state department.
At the Board of Selectmen meeting held Jan. 13, Town Manager John Coderre said that the town had participated in the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Partnership Matching Funds program with an application for funding for the dog park and that DCR had originally approved the project.
It had been reported last September that the project was a go.
“Based upon significant public interest, a policy review was conducted and DCR is now not only allowing such projects, but is actually incentivizing them,” conservation agent Mia McDonald noted in a Community Advocate article dated Sept. 16, 2019.
However, opposition to the proposed park led in part by Alick Yellick surfaced. He until recently lived near the conservation area that is named for his brother, Michael P. Yellick. The Community Advocate reported on Oct. 22, 2019 that an email was sent from Yellick to a number of town and state officials. It said: “Land that was supposed to protect native plants, wildlife and their habitat along with the Assabet River will now be destroyed. Dog waste, fluids from vehicles and trash will ultimately end up littering the land and river. The presence of barking dogs and loud vehicles will scare away the wildlife that call the conservation land home.”
At the Jan. 13 meeting Coderre noted that “There was some concerns regarding the property and whether DCR actually has control over that property including authorizing a dog park to be constructed.”
After considerable back and forth communication with DCR, the town received a letter from Jennifer Norwood, director of external affairs and partnerships with DCR, dated January 6, 2020 that said: “Following the department’s secondary review of the proposed Yellick Conservation Area dog park, it was again determined that the DCR is not the state agency with care and control of the property. Therefore, the DCR does not have the legal authority to authorize, fund or build any structure on this property, which also precludes the ability to co-fund the project utilizing the agency’s Partnership Matching Funds program.”
The letter was in response to a detailed letter the town sent to her dated Nov. 7, 2019 with questions and information pertaining to that location.
“The bottom-line is where it stands right now is they’re declining to move forward with this particular grant round for us. We’ve asked for some additional information…but for this round and the time being I believe the dog park is not going to proceed at this point in time,” Coderre remarked.
He added that those who had made a matching donation, specific to the dog park project, will be reimbursed.
“There is a very big need in the town for a dog park,” Coderre concluded. “The project itself or the idea to pursue a dog park is not an idea that is ending.”