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SPOT, Swampscott’s first dog park is finally ready for business

SWAMPSCOTT — After more than a decade, Swampscott finally has a location for its dog park. But it does come with some concerns.

The 30,000 square foot area is located through the town’s historic cemetery and adjacent to the DPW Annex. Some residents have raised questions about disruption in the cemetery while dog owners walk the trail to the park and whether the town would need to use that area for more grave plots anytime soon.

“Swampscott is a very geographically constrained town,” said Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald. “We all have to recognize there are very few options, but this is a beautiful place and a strategic way to make the best use of some limited areas. I would expect folks will be mindful and respectful of the cemetery as we try to make sure our canine friends have a space to run around.”

Lynn Zabar, one of the original organizers of Swampscott Park for Off-Leash Time (SPOT), said town officials completed the necessary evaluations on the location and the organizers have taken precautions to remind resident dog owners to have cemetery etiquette and to be respectful.

“The town evaluated and found that was the best way to get into the park,” Zabar said. “Signs will prompt and direct people as they come in and there will also be a reminder sign that there are no dogs in the cemetery. They’re only allowed on the main access road to get to the park.”

Zabar said when the location became an idea five years ago, the Swampscott Historical Commission and Selectboard did have conversations to ensure the history and sensitivity of the cemetery would remain a priority. Years ago when the town shot down the idea of the dog park going to Phillips Park, Zabar said it was because residents raised concerns over traffic congestion in the area and people didn’t want it near their homes.

The area behind the cemetery was a great option because it is set back from homeowners and offers a lot of space, Zabar said. It also leads to a conservation path on the opposite side of the DPW Annex that will loop residents and their dogs right into Salem Woods and the Forest River trails.

Gino Cresta, DPW Director and Assistant Town Administrator for Operations, completed an analysis on how many grave plots the town sells each year and it seems as though burying loved ones in a cemetery is on the decline.

“It will be 75 to 100 years before we need that space for more grave plots,” Cresta said. “If we need the space then we will take it back, but until then, I think we’re good.”

SPOT became a non-profit in 2009 and has a sole purpose of organizing the park and making sure there is funding for it. A few years after becoming an organization, they raised $30,000 for the dog park. Zabar said they’ve saved every penny in anticipation of locking down a location.

“I’m excited because there is so much space at this park,” Zabar said. “We used all our funding to get the wraparound fence, so we’ll work on getting more to work on beautifying it with benches and bushes, that will be phase two. There is a lot of people who want to make sure this is successful.”

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