On Tuesday, registered voters in Brookfield with have the option to vote on whether or not a group of volunteers should be allowed to build a dog park — dubbed Kanine Kingdom — on a 1-acre portion of Happy Landings, a town-owned piece of open space on Whisconier Road.
[Check out the and see the property yourself through the .]
The proposal to build Kanine Kingdom at Happy Landings has met fierce opposition from a number of neighbors and a group of citizens who have organized the Happy Landings Association (HLA) in an attempt to prevent any development of the 74-acre open space.
After the Board of Selectmen (BOS) chose to , HLA members .
“Not only were people unaware of this proposal, but they were also angry that it has even been considered,” HLA member Laila Ferrara said, explaining the push for a referendum. “The town voted overwhelmingly by referendum to have Happy Landings deemed permanently protected open space.”
The first referendum on whether to purchase the land , 988-988. The referendum was held again, per the ruling of then-Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, and passed 1,424-563.
“Put the bark park elsewhere and leave Happy Landings alone,” Ferrara said.
That sentiment echoed at the town meeting, held in order to set the date of the referendum. Of the , only three spoke in favor, while the rest demanded they find a new location.
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No Other Dogs in this Race
Brookfield resident Keith Wolff, founding member of Supporters of Kanine Kingdom (SOKK), first broached the idea of pulling together a committee of volunteers to build and manage a dog park in town with the Gurski Homestead Commission in March 2011, SOKK’s first choice of location.
The as a good site for a dog park despite . However, Conservation’s approval hinged on the assent of the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), which holds a stake in the Gurski property through historic restoration grants.
, stating in a June 2011 letter that they were “concerned that additional traffic would compromise the preservation of the buildings,” which was of primary concern.
, including the Burr property, Eriksen Farm Open Space and Happy Landings.
In May 2012, for the park.
According to Conservation Chairman Alice Dew, of all the town’s open space, .
Conservation “evaluated all the properties,” Dew said, adding that Happy Landings was the only one to get a favorable vote from the commission members.
Burr Farm and the Greenknoll Open Space both suffer from poor access and no parking, as does Eriksen Farm, which is also currently a bird sanctuary.
Happy Landings, on the other hand, is centrally located and has ample parking near the road and the proposed dog park area.
“We felt it was a reasonable use of open space,” Dew said, “A passive use of recreation.”
For members of HLA, the fact that Happy Landings is the only town-owned space available is not a strong enough reason to allow the use of the property.
"What Brookfield won, by referendum, with a margin of almost 3 to 1, was a beautiful place to remain just as it is — a wide open pasture with a wide open sky," . Norman warned that, though the proposal only requests an acre of the property, allowing a dog park "makes the land vulnerable to any other private activity that someone may wish to set up on the field in the future."
“Why do we need to put it on town property?” HLA member Michelle Berg said. “If this is privately funded, why can’t they find private property?”
Berg and others have recommended going to private commercial landowners in town to see about possible donations or cheap leases, an avenue SOKK member Lisa Allan said they have tried, but to no avail.
“We have explored all other possible options; both town-owned and private,” . “The only way to get a dog park in Brookfield is on Happy Landings.”
Polls will be open Tuesday at (District I) and (District II) from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Contact the with any polling questions.