After a lively welcome and a lot of happy socializing, the top item on the agenda for Mayor Martin Walsh at the Training Field on Wednesday morning was dogs…and leashes.
“I want to start by taking a moment to thank the community for the great work that was done to refurbish this park, but we need to address the dogs in the park,” said the mayor. “I want to make sure people are using the park with their dogs on a leash. Tell your neighbors and let them know to have their dogs on a leash and pick up after them…This isn’t an anti-dog statement but a reality statement. We are looking for more opportunities to create more places for dog parks. This was a very important project and a major effort by the community. This is an issue I’ve heard three or four times since I’ve gotten here today.”
The issue has bubbled up this year, as the grass in the Training Field has been withered away by the many dog owners who let their dogs run off leash on the grass. With the exploding population of dogs in the Town, more and more dogs are running in the Training Field, and the long fought for grass – which was planted and cared for carefully for more than a year – has now been nearly destroyed.
Billy Kelly, president of the Friends of the Training Field, said he brought the issue up to the mayor on Wednesday. He said something has to be done.
“I talked to the mayor and apparently they’re trying to get Animal Control put under the Parks Department, which makes more sense, and then we can have some enforcement,” he said. “We can’t lose the grass here after all the work it took to get it.”
Additionally, Mayor Walsh said they are working to restore the crosswalk and light on Adams Street entering into the Training Field.
Transportation was front and center following dogs, with the mayor saying he wanted to make sure everyone worked with the City to get something done on Rutherford Avenue and Sullivan Square.
“I know some want overpasses and some don’t,” he said. “We want to work through that, but the biggest thing is that after 25 years of talking about it, we will see action about that traffic situation. I know there was a study from a Northeaster professor and we’re looking at that. I just want you to work with us on this. We need to get something done. Not everyone will be totally happy, but we can work together.”
He said there have been a number of players involved in the issue for years, including state legislators going back to former Sen. President Tom Birmingham.
“Not everyone will be happy, but at the end of the day it will be a brand-new roadway and it will slow people down,” he said.
He added that they have set aside $4.76 million for the continuing design of that project in the next year.
He also addressed the North Washington Street Bridge, which will be starting very soon.
“I have no other way of saying this other than it will be a big inconvenience,” he said.
A silver lining is he said he believes once the commuter traffic learns of the project, they will likely find another route and that will lead to less congestion. He said that is how it played out in Dorchester when they replaced the Neponset River Bridge over a number of years.
“The first two weeks traffic was a nightmare, and then the police got involved and the traffic flow worked itself out,” he said. “Here, you have people coming through here who aren’t from Charlestown. They’re coming from Cambridge, from Everett, Chelsea and the North Shore. A lot of that traffic will learn to go somewhere else because they won’t want to wait in the lines.”
The morning was concluded by a long stretch of individual socializing with the mayor, and he concluded that most of the folks were very happy with how things are going.