BREWSTER — It took almost a decade of back-and-forth discussions and proposals, but there will finally be a place in town where dogs and their people can socialize.
The acre-and-a-half park, divided into two areas — one for bigger dogs, the other for small ones — is tucked away on a 40-acre lot behind the police station off Route 124. It has been under construction since August and is slated to open in spring of 2022.
“This was not an easy project,” said Carmen Scherzo, president of the Friends of the Brewster Dog Park. “It’s been a long time coming,” he added. Brewster dog owners requested a dog park in 2013. The Dog Park Development Committee was formed to evaluate a number of potential sites. The select board approved the current site in 2017.
The need for a dog park was not initially apparent to everyone in town. After all, there are many public places where people can walk their dogs outdoors. Until the Pilgrim Bark Park opened in Provincetown in 2008, there were — at least officially — no dog parks on the Lower Cape.
All dogs owned or kept in Brewster are required to be either leashed or under voice command at all times, according to a town bylaw. No dogs, leashed or otherwise, are permitted on Brewster town beaches from May 15 through Sept. 15. Drummer Boy Park, next to the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, banned dogs in 2012, and Freeman’s Way Fields, another popular area, has signs posted saying that dogs are not allowed there.
Advocates argued that dog parks are for humans as much as they are for dogs. That’s one reason Provincetown’s has been a success, according to Debbie Grabler, president of the Provincetown Dog Park Association.
The Bark Park, she said, gives older people and people with mobility issues a way to provide their dogs with the exercise they need. The park is fully accessible, she said. Moreover, it’s a place for “people from all walks of life,” she added. “It really is a community venue that unites people around the love of their dogs.”
Such support for dog owners, it is hoped, may counter a trend now being measured nationwide. The pandemic caused pet adoptions, especially of dogs, to rise by 26,000 — an increase of about 15 percent — in 2020, according to the Washington Post. Now, however, adoption centers are reporting more and more families sending their pets back to shelters post-pandemic.
Voters at Brewster’s town meeting last May 15 allocated $185,000 in Community Preservation Act funds for the dog park. The Friends of the Brewster Dog Park raised another $50,000 for the project, and the Stanton Foundation awarded the town a $225,000 grant for it. Agway of Cape Cod will provide waste bags free for three years, and Nauset Disposal is providing free trash and recycling services, according to Scherzo.
The Friends, a nonprofit organization, is tasked with providing stewardship for the park going forward. As the contractor completes its work, the group is focused on working with the town on the finishing touches needed — plantings, water fountains, and other facilities — before it’s ready to officially open.
Scherzo, a retired veterinarian, said he hopes the park will host dog education classes, training, and other events to serve as a true community resource for more than just canine socializing.