WESTFIELD – The dogs of Westfield, and their owners, have had a playground in the city for months and the folks who provided it will be busy on Friday raising money to keep it open and make it better.
The Westfield Dog Bark Friends have been working for more than four years to make the brainchild of their president, Edward J. Phillips, a reality and have succeeded in creating a “dog friendly area” at Arm Brook Park, a previously dormant property of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission on Lockhouse Road.
The road to Arm Brook Park has been circuitous with several other locations – Grandmothers Garden, Whitney Playground, Papermill Playground, and several others – being considered but none survived the close scrutiny and public discussion until the park on Lockhouse Road was considered.
A thriving city park in the 70s, with pavilions and a beach, the park fell into disuse in the early 80s after vandalism and fires destroyed many of the amenities there.
Although there was initially some opposition to establishing a dog park there, the property was found to still be under the control of the Park and Recreation Commission, and at the end of 2013, the commission gave the Friends the green light to start creating dog playground there with the support of Mayor Daniel M. Knapik.
The property is largely wooded and the western part is bordered by the St.. John’s Lutheran Church cemetery and by the shore of the Arm Brook flood control reservoir.
The Friends discussed establishing two areas for dogs at the park: a large area where dogs could run in the woods with their owners and a much smaller corral near the entrance where dogs could play together under the eyes of their handlers.
Although the larger area could be achieved by connecting each end of the existing cemetery fence to the reservoir, the steep and tangled terrain makes that a much more ambitious project than the playground so the play enclosure was the first project tackled by the Friends.
Utilizing the funds garnered by a series of fundraising events the Friends were able to both clear the undergrowth from an area large enough for an enclosed playground and a parking area and erect a fence to keep playing dogs safely enclosed.
With the fence up, the area has been put to use by many local dog owners even though the area has not officially opened.
The driveway is not marked but it has been plowed this winter and a posted sign welcomes visitors and lists the rules governing use of the “dog friend area’ at the park.
The Friends and the Commission are planning an official opening in the spring and hope to have additional amenities in place then.
At the top of the list of desired improvements are bringing water and electricity to the playground from Lockhouse Road.
To that end, the friends are continuing their fundraising efforts this Friday with their third annual ‘Pasta for the Park’ which will be staged, for the second year, at the Sons of Erin hall on William Street.
The pasta dinner will be catered by Nora’s Restaurant of Southwick and will be served from 6 p.m. It will feature musical entertainment by Fran Liptak and Friends, as well as a variety of raffles featuring contributions from For K-9s and Felines, Westfield Feed, Woofer Needleworks and many other supporters of the playground.
Tickets are available for $10 at the door, at westfielddogbark.com and on the Friends’ Facebook page.