Can baseball enthusiasts and dog walkers get along while sharing the Dexter Training Ground in Providence’s Armory District? It depends whom you ask.
To those troubled by the city’s plan to turn the training ground into a dog park — a development that caught residents outside the canine community by surprise — the answer is a definite “yes.” Yet Providence Parks Superintendent Alix Ogden, who said she has yet to hear the details of a plan for shared use, says she has “pretty serious concerns” about the feasibility of the concept.
Last October, the city’s Board of Park Commis¬sioners, which is chaired by Mayor David N. Cicilline, voted to remake the Dexter Training Ground as the city’s second dog park. Following a complaint by critics of the move, the office of Attorney General Patrick Lynch found that the city did not provide the required notice about the meetings that led up to the decision.
While the failure to comply with the state Open Meetings Law is considered an innocent mistake, some Armory District have been flabbergasted that they didn’t learn about the dog park plan until after the fact. They say a ball field in the Dexter Training Ground, next to the Cranston Field Armory, is popular with children and adults and has been used for many decades. The site isn’t far from where the Providence Grays, a professional team active in the late 19th-century, played its games.
Ogden says the park commissioners felt like they went through a long and deliberate process in response to interest from dog owners. She describes the ball playing at Dexter as “informal” since it has consisted in recent years of practices and casual games, not games involving organized leagues.
But David Talan, a youth baseball coach, says it’s virtually unheard of for the city to reduce the sparse number of ball fields on the South and West Side, and that some teams are already reduced to practicing on cement lots. He says a Monday evening meeting at Dexter attracted about 75 baseball boosters and dog lovers, and that the crowd was supportive of sharing the site. Talan says this could be done through creating a fenced dog park on part of Dexter for about $10,000 — a relative drop in the bucket for the city.
“We’re never taken the position that it has to be either-or, and we’ve always hoped that the area is big enough to support both uses,” he says. Based on the comment at Monday’s meeting, the dog park supporters “were willing to go along with us on this also, as long as they end up with what they want and we get what we want.”
The Park Commissioners are scheduled to revisit the issue during their next meeting, which is slated for 8:30 am on Friday, May 11 at the Roger Williams Park Casino, although Ogden says it may be rescheduled due to timing conflicts.
Supporters of the shared-use vision plan to hold a strategy session on Tuesday, May 8 at 6:30 pm at the Dexter Training Ground (or the Hmong Congregational Church, 46 Dexter Street, in event of rain).
: This Just In
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