Flagging volunteer effort jeopardizes Waterbury Unleashed Dog Park — Waterbury Roundabout

With membership on its volunteer committee dwindling, the future of Waterbury Unleashed Dog Park in the winter season looks uncertain.

“Beginning November 1st, Waterbury Unleashed Dog Park will close its doors indefinitely due to a lack of volunteer committee workers,” wrote Park Committee Chair Abby Teel in a letter to the community posted on Wednesday in Social Media was released.

“For the past 18 months the dog park committee has worked hard to make sure the park is a safe and welcoming place for our neighborhood to bring their pups. Three members of the committee are moving out of the area and so there are not enough staff to manage the park effectively. “

After three active volunteers left, Teel said in an interview: “That just leaves me.”

Opened in August 2015, the dog park has a unique existence in a quiet corner of the city’s former garbage dump, but is now a center for recreational activities in Waterbury. The park is next to the Winooski River next to the Ice Center rink. When it was founded, a large group of dog lovers came together to campaign for the park, with many involved in setting up the chain-link fence area.

The pavilion was built by the Yestermorrow Design / Build School in Waitsfield in a timber frame construction with tenons and tenons. Volunteers built a suitable half-timbered information kiosk that stands outside the fenced area.

The park’s amenities include running water, septic tanks for dog poop, picnic tables, and even a small library.

Until the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, volunteers regularly ensured order was maintained with regular check-ins, a schedule for mowing and shoveling snow and occasional work parties several times a year.

But the volunteer energy has lost some of its momentum lately. Teel stepped up as an organizer early last year and said her list of those ready to claim jobs had shrunk to a handful. Few people showed up for a work day last weekend, which led to their announcement a few days later. “We need more help,” she said.

Some of the regulars traveling elsewhere have offered to return to do their chores, but Teel said the responsibility should fall on the people here in the community, the dog lovers who use the park.

So far, the announcement seems to have been a wake-up call. “I’ve heard from more people in the last few days than I did last year,” she said on Friday.

A meeting is now planned for October 19th at 5.30 p.m. in the park. Those who wish to see the park viable are asked to attend to see if there is enough commitment to breathe new life into the group and take on the necessary chores for the winter.

Current committee members will attend, Teel said, to outline the various roles and responsibilities that need to be assigned to maintain the park, such as daily managers, groundskeepers and volunteers for dealing with social media.

“This meeting is for those who can pledge to play an active role in the management of the park and dedicate approximately six hours of volunteering per month,” she said.

In her public appeal, Teel reminds the community of the efforts that have been put into the park in the hopes that new supporters will make it worth it.

“It took Waterbury Unleashed Dog Park years and countless volunteer hours to get started in our city. We are the envied of our surrounding Vermont towns and are often asked for advice on how to set up a park in their neighborhood, ”she wrote. “Don’t let this little gem in Waterbury close!”

A voluntary commitment right from the start

The history of the dog park dates back to 2010 when the idea of ​​finding a place where dogs are welcome to play on a leash took off. The city has a regulation that requires dogs to be kept on a leash at all times, and off-leash play is not permitted in city parks. In 2011 efforts stalled after tropical storm Irene hit Waterbury and local volunteer energy focused on disaster recovery.

But in 2015, momentum was again selected and a location on a plot of land that was then owned by the village community. That changed in 2018 when the village government was dissolved and the Edward Farrar Utility District was created as a municipal unit whose main role is to oversee the operation of the municipal water and sewerage operations.

The volunteer work for the construction of the park came from local residents, high school students and scouts. City workers provided guidance with the help of local officials. The park did not use taxpayer money for its construction. Grants, events, and donations funded the effort, and ongoing fundraising has helped keep it going. Volunteers formed a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit called FORWARD (short for Friends For Waterbury Area Recreation Development) to manage the park’s finances.

The existence of the dog park is not a lease contract, but a declaration of intent that transfers responsibility for the maintenance of the voluntary committee set up for this purpose.

Today, the board of trustees of the supply district is in the process of handing over ownership of several properties that it inherited from the village – including the 40 hectares with the dog park, ice rink and access to bike paths – to the city for a long time. Concept of property.

The announcement of the opening of the so-called “Waterbury Unleashed Dog Park” in 2015 promoted the benefits that proponents of the project saw in adding a dog park to the city: “[I]It was built to increase tourism, improve the quality of life for city dwellers, and promote public health / safety. The park should be enjoyed by people and dogs, a peaceful place where neighbors can meet to socialize and enjoy healthy activities. ”

On Friday, Teel said she saw a glimmer of hope for the continuation of this vision. Based on the feedback she has received over the past few days, she believes a new cohort of caretakers may emerge. “I have a good feeling that people are going to get into these roles,” she said.

And if not, Teel said closing the park for the winter – when volunteers would normally shovel and clean up snow on a regular basis – would be the next step to revive interest next spring.