PORTSMOUTH — Five years after the Portsmouth Dog Park opened, the popular gathering place for dogs and their humans is about to grow bigger.
The Portsmouth Dog Park Committee announced at the June 13 meeting of the Portsmouth Town Council it has received a grant from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation to fully fund an expansion of the park and installation of night lighting.
The Town Council unanimously voted to proceed with the project. Last year, the dog park committee commissioned an engineering study to assess the feasibility of expanding the park and parking lot and installing night lighting.
The assessment was conducted by NEI Narragansett Engineering, Inc. and funded jointly by NEI and the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, the latter of which is also underwriting a project to collect and analyze data regarding use of the dog park.
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The year-long data study is being conducted by students from Salve Regina University’s math and economic departments. Preliminary data from their work indicates the median number of people using the park is 160 on weekdays and between 200 and 300 on weekends.
“This is more than twice the number of people we originally estimated would use the park,” Jane Regan, chair of the Portsmouth Dog Park Committee, said in a prepared statement.
The engineering plan calls for doubling the size of the dog park footprint in the form of a dogleg (no pun intended) to the north and west of the existing park. The estimated cost for this portion of the project is $98,000. While the main park is open field, the new section will carve a 0.4-mile path through the underbrush, allowing native trees and plants to thrive.
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This will offer dog owners an area to walk their dogs off leash in a fenced, trail-like setting, something they are unable to do in the Melville trails and Portsmouth parks.
Lighting, budgeted at $23,000, will be installed around the small dog area, the eastern end of the large dog area and the parking lot, which should provide enough illumination to let owners supervise their dogs after sunset and before 8 pm during the winter months.
The van Beuren Charitable Foundation also agreed to fund up to $34,700 for expanding the parking lot, provided funding is matched dollar for dollar by the Town of Portsmouth.
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“Five years ago, the van Beuren Charitable Foundation contributed half the cost of building the dog park, and now they are underwriting the entire cost of expanding and lighting it,” Regan said. “We are deeply grateful for their faith in this project. ”
For more information, visit portsmouthdogparkri.com.