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April 25. 2013 11:07PM

Chance of Bedford dog park remains

BEDFORD - For advocates of a proposed dog park, there remains a faint glimmer of hope that their dream could become reality. But one advocate in particular believes it's a faint glimmer at best.

"The last I understood, the Town Council was looking to put together some kind of solicitation that if someone out there would be willing to maintain and operate it (the park), then maybe it could happen," said Fred Hurwitz of the Friends of Bedford Canine Corner, the group that has vowed to raise the money necessary to build the park and pay for its maintenance in the first two years. "I think it's a stretch, to be honest, but if they succeed, I'll be surprised and I'll support it."

Plans for a dog park took a turn in March after voters approved a warrant article calling for the dog park to be approved, but which also included language requiring a group to come forward and enter into a lease agreement with the town in order to move the project forward.

Members of Friends of Canine Corner argued after the vote that the language in the warrant article was confusing and that the ballot question was framed in such a way as to make it unreasonable for any group to take on that responsibility.

Hurwitz said his understanding of recent Town Council discussions concerning the dog park proposal is that "they realize a very large percentage of voters are in favor of a dog park," and their sense of it is that "the ballot vote said 'we want a dog park.'"

Friends of the Canine Corner, Hurwitz said, was asked by the council whether the group would still fund the construction and maintenance of the dog park if the council could someone who would lease it and run it.

"Our answer was yes," said Hurwitz.

Hurwitz said he's skeptical councilors will find any persons or group that will step forward and to lease the property, but he did offer a suggestion.

"The very first thing I would do is informally advertise and see what's out there," he said. "Assuming you have someone who's willing to take it on, now you have expenses, and my guess is there isn't a group that's willing to take that on for the same reasons we're not willing to."

Friends of Canine Corner is not willing to enter into a lease for the operation of the dog park largely because of insurance and liability issues. Hurwitz said the decision by a nonprofit to obtain liability insurance "becomes a different matter" that involves expenses and responsibilities the group is not prepared or willing to take on.

If nothing comes of this latest attempt to get movement on the dog park issue, Hurwitz said the Friends of Canine Corner will get a referendum question placed on the ballot at the next townwide vote.

He said a referendum would allow the group to phrase the question in precisely the way it chooses. Hurwitz said he's uncertain whether a referendum question would be binding on the town. "I don't know," Hurwitz said. "I'm not clear on that. We'd have to do some research. I think that there are some different opinions as far as that."

hmetz@unionleader.com


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