What is the Proposed Change?The current draft of the management plan recommends requiring dogs to be leashed in the vicinity of the two shelters and on two Hubbard Park trails: (1) the Tower Loop and around the tower itself; and (2) the new Interpretive Trail. The plan also designates roads and parking areas as on-leash zones, in keeping with an existing Montpelier City Ordinance. This change would convert one mile of existing trail to on-leash, leaving an additional seven miles of Hubbard Park trails open to off-leash dogs, including the wide, gradual gravel road to Seven Fireplaces. This eight miles of trail does not include roads or the off-leash trails in the new northern section of the park.
Didn’t We Already Vote on Leashing Dogs in Hubbard Park? Why Change Things Now?The city of Montpelier did hold a special city council advisory vote on whether to require dogs to be leashed in Hubbard Park in 2017. The majority (678 people) voted no, but by an extremely thin margin (637 people voted yes). This vote was non-binding and intended to gauge public opinion rather than create a new law. Today the Canine Code of Conduct (montpelier-vt.org/215/Canine-Code-of-Conduct) drawn up by two volunteer committees in 2013 remains in place, and a form (montpelier-vt.org/FormCenter/Parks-Forms-6/Incident-Report-Form-49) on the parks website invites visitors to report incidents in the park, although relatively few negative encounters with dogs are actually reported.
How Can a Management Plan Help?The drafting of a management plan has given both the Parks Commission and the community a chance to revisit this topic and plan for a better future. Based on the commission’s institutional knowledge, research, and community input, the plan identifies objectives and recommended actions to preserve and improve Hubbard Park and North Branch River Park over the next 10 years. As a guiding and an evolving document, it makes recommendations, rather than directives, and the pursuit or achievement of these goals will ultimately depend on the dynamic needs of this community and a range of financial, logistical, and environmental factors. In 1908 Hubbard Park’s first designer, the landscape architect Dana F. Dow, noted its “rugged and picturesque” feel and the importance of making the park inviting to visitors (see his full report at vermonthistory.org/documents/digital/Doc420-01_MontpelierParkCommission.pdf). Today, this balance between wild and civilized remains the park’s greatest challenge and its greatest strength. The Parks Commission invites public comment on the leash proposal and other topics addressed by the draft management plan! You can view the proposed plan at montpelier-vt.org/1317/Draft-Management-Plan-Update—2023. Please share your thoughts via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or at the upcoming Parks Commission meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7 from 6 to 8 p.m. Donaldson is an anthropologist, author, Montpelier Parks Commissioner, mother, and dog owner who wrote this piece on behalf of the Parks Commission.
UNDERWRITING SUPPORT PROVIDED BY