Farina: Stony Acre dog park to rival Rhode Island's biggest

The Cranston Herald ·

The city of Cranston has never had a dog park, but that will change soon.

Neighboring cities Warwick and Providence both have sizable parks for people to take their furry friends, but Cranston is just now looking to join the club with a smaller proposed park on Beachmont Avenue expected to be coming within the next few weeks and a bigger, two-section dog park with a parking lot now proposed on the vacant piece of land on Stony Acre Drive, behind Stone Hill School.

The City Council will vote on an ordinance for the Stony Acre dog park in March after the Ordinance Committee discusses and votes on it.

Council President Michael Farina said that funding has always been the issue when dog parks come up, but when he became president of the Council he “moved this to the forefront” and wanted to figure out how Cranston can bring a “low-impact, easy to manage dog park” without costing the taxpayer significantly.

Recently, the Council voted through a resolution from Councilman Steve Stycos for a dog park on Beachmont Avenue, which will be funded through the Rhode Island Dream Center and will have two sections, separated by a swinging gate, for a total size of between 700 and 1,000 feet, according to Parks and Recreation Director Tony Liberatore.

The issue for that dog park was whether or not city funds would be used to pay, which they won’t be because of the Dream Center building it, and represents the main issue that Farina points to in why Cranston’s never had dog parks before.

The snag in this current project, which Farina called a “true team effort,” was the best location that they could build a large dog park on.

“We didn’t want to have three or four small dog parks,” Farina said. “We wanted to have one large dog park. We tried to find a space centrally located with enough land.”

He said that there were “seven or eight” locations that he and his cohort in the dog park project, Councilman Chris Paplauskas, looked at through this process, which he said started about five years ago. He said the park on Florida Avenue that has a baseball field was an option, but that parking might be an issue. They also looked at Mills Street, but that one wasn’t as centrally located as they would have liked, being in Ward 1 in Eastern Cranston.

Recently, Councilman Paplauskas brought up the Stony Acre plot of land that is gated up right now. The land, located on Stony Acre Drive and behind Stone Hill Elementary, has a large piece of land surrounded by woods on all sides, with a walking path the only way to get to the field now.

“It’s almost like a forgotten space,” Paplauskas said about the land. “This is a great spot because it’s not used for anything right now.”

He said that there’s a “good-sized” field in there that will be large enough for two large sections, one for small dogs and one for big dogs. He said that the surrounding land that lies on the street would be cleared out by Parks and Recreation to provide parking for the dog park.

City Planner Jason Pezzullo said that there was a $100,000 request for a dog park in the Parks and Recreation budget that was heard at the Planning Commission meeting Tuesday night. He said this cost includes sight clearance and parking.

“If you’re doing something from scratch in a piece of green area, that [cost] adds up real fast,” Pezzullo said.

To help cover that cost, Farina and Paplauskas are working on obtaining a $25,000 grant from PetSmart. If they can’t get that grant, they could also look for a DEM grant as well, Farina said.

He also said that dog parks aren’t as “high impact” if the land is open and doesn’t need to be cleared out as much, like the Stony Acre plot. Parks and Recreation can maintain the land “relatively cheaply,” he said, with the more costly projects being a parking lot and putting in new mulch for the park itself.

Farina also added that funds could also come through a committee that he is working to set up with “community groups” to create a non-profit that would raise money to pay for the parks.

“The goal is to get this done as simply and cheaply as possible,” he said.

Paplauskas, who said he wanted the Beachmont park, but added that it’s far away from many dog-owners in Central and Western Cranston, said he’s “really happy” about this Stony Acre project.

“It’s going to be a great addition to the city,” he said.