Dog park location eyed

Relocating the Little League field also discussed
Mon, 03/20/2017 - 12:00pm

The Block Island Land Trust has selected a possible location for a dog park: the Harrison-Bird parcel that is located at the sharp curve on West Side Road, across from the cottage called the Tea Room. 

“It’s right on the road,” said Chair Barbara MacMullan, adding that the park could be sited so “it wouldn’t be right next to a neighbor.” The Land Trust’s attorney cautioned, however, that a special use permit may be needed to site the park.

Chris Littlefield, from The Nature Conservancy, who at the last Land Trust meeting had called for a place that could easily be utilized by boaters with dogs, said: “It’s not that close to the boaters…but not that far...”

Land Trust Attorney Joe Priestley cautioned that “we have a zoning issue here.” Slightly later he added a dog park doesn’t really fit into “the language of the [zoning] ordinances.”

That did not deter the conversation, however. MacMullan referenced a town dog park in South Kingston that she described as having “three areas – one for little dogs, one for big dogs — they don’t always play well together — and one for bad dogs.” She clarified that “bad dogs” should really mean dogs that should be separated from other dogs due to health or other reasons. In terms of maintenance, the park is cleaned up once per week, even though owners are supposed to clean up after their own dogs, and the park is closed off every spring so that the grass can re-grow. 

Although having a dog park would require a special use permit, the Land Trust decided to pursue its idea. “Why don’t we try doing this on Harrison?” asked MacMullan, “and go through the steps.” 

Little League field

A new location for a Little League field was also on the agenda, as it seems to be every spring. This time though, the solution seemed simple: put it at Heinz Field. Land Trust Clerk Heidi Tarbox said that her husband, John Tarbox, who is a baseball coach and the Physical Education teacher at the Block Island School, had suggested it. She noted that the plans for Heinz Field call for a building in the area where a Little League Field could be situated, which is diagonally across the field from the baseball diamond.

Priestley said that an 800 square foot building is allowed there. Years ago it was suggested that some type of concession stand could be constructed there, but that has not yet been built. 

Trustees Harold “Turtle” Hatfield and Wendy Crawford both thought the location would be helpful to families with children attending separate events at the same time. 

“That’s where it should be,” said Hatfield. He also suggested putting a couple of “baskets” in the area for playing Frisbee golf to “let the kids get used to it.” This could be a precursor for having Frisbee golf at other Land Trust properties.

At the suggestion of Priestley, it was agreed that Hatfield would talk to the Recreation Department about the matter.

An orchard proposal

In another continued item from last month, the couple that had reached out to the Land Trust for the use of some 20 acres of land for an orchard, responded back via email that they had scaled back their request and were now looking for more than four acres, “but less than 10.” Alan June wrote that he and his wife, who has a degree in horticulture, have been farming on Long Island. On Block Island they wish to grow berries, flowers, and herbs, and also have some sheep and rams.  They wrote: “Using rotational grazing of sheep brought back one field after another.”

MacMullan said: “My concerns are someone having a commercial business on Land Trust land that could become somewhat permanent.”

Block Island Conservancy President Bill Comings noted that they would need a source of water. “It’s pretty intensive,” he said.

Crawford said she “would want to search for a model” whereby this type of activity was occurring on conservation lands, and it was agreed to have Tarbox look into instances where this was occurring on the mainland.

MacMullan said you “couldn’t have a five-year or 10 year term lease and then say ‘see you.’ He needs a 99-year lease.”

“They’re basically looking for an equivalence of ownership,” said Littlefield. “They might be better off leasing private property.”

Kim Gaffett, also from The Nature Conservancy, said that she belongs to a C.S.A. in Wakefield and “he farms on Land Trust Land.” 

(C.S.A. stands for Community Supported Agriculture, whereby members pay a farmer up front at the beginning of a growing season, and then receive, usually, weekly boxes of produce throughout the season.)

“The difference to me is the permanency of what they’re growing,” said MacMullan. Later she would add another concern – that of setting a precedent, especially in the commercial use of conservation property. 

Gaffett suggested that if agriculture was desired on Land Trust properties, that they might “put it out there with RFPs.”

“Agricultural purposes are never going to work,” said Priestly, “without a commercial aspect to it.”

“Look at your policies and step away,” said Littlefield.

“Agreed,” said Hatfield, adding that “it wouldn’t work for this season.”

“Advise them to look to the private sector,” said Littlefield.

MacMullan gave the Treasurer’s Report in the absence of Barby Michel. She said the Land Trust took in $56,359 in transfer fees during February. There is $1,596,503 in their operating account, with a principal and interest payment due on a bond in the amount of $438,000, on April 15. 

The Land Trust also agreed to share the expenses of Conservancy Day with The Nature Conservancy and the Block Island Conservancy, which will be held on Saturday, May 13, with a reception at the Narragansett Inn. The reception will honor the winner of this year’s Bayberry Wreath Award.