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Chronology of Events

I did my best to throw together a quick history of what has happened since June 1st.  Throwing it together was not so quick and it's likely missing a lot of stuff, but I wanted to get something out there to catch everyone up who has come late to the party and missed out on all the emails that have been flying around.

May 31 - Atwood Park very over grown.  Neighbor jokingly suggested we request permission to plant crops.  Emailed my realtor who is on the park commission asking who to contact to get Atwood Park mowed, he passed along Lise Reid's email address.  I accidentally referred to the park as Atkinson in my email, realized what I did so sent a follow up email correcting myself.  Before reading my second email, Lise had already forwareded it to Beverly MacBurnie who manages Atkinson common.  Beverly and I exchanged a few good natured emails and she realized that she had worked with my wife in regards to fund raisers for Atkinson common in the past. 

June 1 - Atwood Park  mowed, emailed Lise thanking her.   As a side note, the park has been mowed 3 or 4 times now since June 1.  Thanks for thinking of us.

June 5 - My wife had a run in with the dog walker using the tennis court.  Emailed Lise again, cc'd my realtor and Beverly.  Here is an excerpt from my email to her:

Hi Lise, I have a politically charged question for you.  As you now know, my wife and I and my two young children live on School St, across from Atwood park.  My wife has been a Newburyport resident for almost 20 years and I've been here almost 10.  There has been an ongoing problem with dogs using the park as a bathroom and owners not cleaning up after them since we've lived on this street.  The tennis court was also being used as a dog play yard and even if people did pick up the poop, there is always pee which is not absorbed into the pavement.  My 4 and 5 year old use the court to practice riding bikes safely, playing ball, etc.  There is no net and it has not been really used as a court in the 3+ years I've lived on this street.  Last year, the park commission had the tennis court posted with a no dogs allowed sign which I was thankful to see and was hoping would help at least with the court.  Unfortunately people are still using the court for their dogs.

Today I came down the street and my wife was parked in the middle of School St trying to talk to a woman in the court with her two dogs, and pointing out the sign to her.  She told my wife that she had called the park commission and was told by "the woman who runs the parks" that her dogs were allowed in the court as long as there was no tennis net up.  I then spoke with her and she told me she lives on this street too, her dogs are her children and they need a place to play too and they have as much right to use the court as my kids and if I don't like it, call the police.  Obviously the police have better things to do and I don't want to bother them with such a trivial issue.  In any case, as far as the whole net thing, there is no net 99% of the time because of broken posts for the net (a couple of years ago I saw someone in a NBPT truck drop off a net but he didn't put it up.  I tried but was unable to because of the broken posts).  I can't imagine you guys would post a no dogs sign then tell people dogs are allowed.

Everyone around here with kids is tired of their children getting dog urine and feces on them when they use the park and as a result many no longer even use it.  A ball lands in it, the kids pick it up, etc.  I had hoped the park was enough for dog owners and they'd pick up after their dogs, but there are still people who pull up in a car, let the dog out, the dog will run into the park, use it as a bathroom then run back and jump into the car, all without the owner ever getting out of the car.  It's basically turned into a park for the dogs rather than one for the people.  We try really hard to take care of the park.  We go out and pick up the trash, my neighbor planted shrubs and flowers and takes care of them, as you know I contacted you last week about getting it mowed (thank you again).  It's important to us especially because many of us have such tiny yards.

I also know you are short staffed and the individual who handles the dog issues covers multiple towns and has his hands full as it is. I also know  Mayor Moak previously had considered a dog park for Newburyport but that the idea carried its own problems.  I have no idea where Mayor Holiday sits on this issue.  Please let me know any way I can help to make the park a cleaner, more sanitary place for all the kids in this neighborhood.  If you'd like to call me to discuss, I can be reached at 617-909-0072.

Thanks very much, Rob

June 5 - The first response I received was from Beverly who indicated she has many problems as well at Atkinson, including dogs running loose (and being told by the NBPT police there is no leash law), police refusing to enforce the town ordinances, graffiti (and failure to enforce the graffiti laws).

June 7 - Lise then sent me the following response and cc'd Mayor Holaday, the Board of Health and a whole lot of other town officials including Ward 2's city councillor, Gregory Earls (though to date, 6/23, I have not heard anything from him).

Hi Rob,

I understand your frustration.  First of all, let me respond that the Parks Commission has never given anyone permission to use the tennis court as a dog playground.  Dogs are not allowed on the courts, hence the "No Dogs" sign.

Secondly, the Parks Commission has recently talked with Health Director Robert Bracey about the problem of dog waste in the parks and is working to find a solution.  I would advise you to let the Health Department know of your concerns in writing.  The more people who do so, will help the department understand the extent of the problem as they attempt to rectify it.  It's always helpful to let your City Councillor know too. I have copied Greg Earls on this reply.

The Parks Commission has entertained the idea of a dog park for some time now, but to date has found no viable solution.  We have plans to discuss the matter with Mayor Holaday in the near future, but I don't yet know where she stands on the issue.

Thank you for your support in helping to maintain Atwood Park.  I am glad to hear you use it; it is a beautiful little park, which is on the Parks Commission's list for TLC as soon as we have the funds to do so.

Lisë Reid, Parks Administrator
Newburyport Parks Commission

June 10 - I was pleasantly surprised to receive an unexpected email from Mayor Holaday

Dear Rob,

I was pleased to see the response you received from Lise, Chair of the Parks Commission.  I have been growing more concerned regarding the increased number of complaints my office is receiving regarding the problem with dog waste in the parks as well as sidewalks.  I have asked our Health Director, Bob Bracey to increase efforts to enforce the rules through his Animal Control Office.  Please continue to keep my office informed of these issues and the status of Atwood.

There is a group I asked to organize to look at the possibility of dog park; I have many reservations about this but I will see what the group presents before I make further comment.

Donna D. Holaday
Newburyport City Hall
60 Pleasant St.
PO Box 550
Newburyport, MA 01950

June 10 - Email from Lise
We exchanged several emails, one of which was asking why the tennis court fence had been pulled down.  She responded with this email.  The reference to the park permit is unrelated and is for an August 15th party that Roy Fischer has been organizing with some help from my wife who had applied for a permit to use the park for the party.

Hi Rob,

Regarding removal of the tennis court fence: it was taken down because the DPW needed to access a tree that was threatening to fall on an abutter's house.  Contrary to recent rumors, the Parks Commission does not have plans to use the old court as a parking lot, but we also do not have funding to renovate the court at this time.  Status of fence replacement and tennis court will be discussed at an upcoming Parks Commission meeting.
Glad to hear you're making some efforts to bring the neighborhood together; I received your permit request and will process it today.

Lisë Reid, Parks Administrator
Newburyport Parks Commission
Newburyport City Hall
P.O. Box 550
60 Pleasant Street
Newburyport, MA  01950

June 11 - Contacted Pastor Rob M. John of the Old South church just to let him know what was going on

June 14 - Spoke with Bob Bracey from the Board of Health at some length.  One thing he mentioned was that he would like to ask the Mayor increase the fines for failure to pick up after your dog from $10 to $100.  He asked to meet with all the locals I could round up that were concerned about the dog waste issue.  Lise Reid asked to attend as well.

June 15 - I create and print flyers about the meeting and park movie.  Roy visits people door to door and hands them out.  Thanks Roy!!!

June 16 - I post the flyers on phone poles around the neighborhood before I head to work, but run out of staples.  I stop and talk with a woman who has her grandson with her.  They had already heard about the movie (thanks Roy!!) and were excited to attend.  By sheer coincidence, it turns out she owns the house where the woman my wife had a run in with lives.  Filled her in on what happened, she is not all that pleased with her tenant who she has apparently already had to speak with regarding using the tennis court for her dog.   Karma runs over her Dogma (ba dump dump chshshshshshshsh).

June 17 - I post more flyers and run out of staples again #&$#&$!!!!

June 18 - Newburyport Times article comes out about the Mayor planning on asking the city council to increase the fine mentioned above from $10 to $100 (that was fast!!)

June 19 - WBZ picks up the above story. 
June 19 - I showed the movie Wall-E in the park to a small gathering with lots of help from my wife and kids to prepare for it.  Thanks!

June 20 - Father's Day.  I sleep in. 

June 21 - I take down movie flyers before heading to the office, talk to a few more people.

June 22 - I contact Joseph Gliottone, the owner of the local Doody Calls franchise to see if he would like to be on hand at Thurday's meeting to talk about the health hazards related to dog waste (thanks for the suggestion Todd J).  I also contact the Newburyport News to see if they are interested in attending.  Recevied a yes on both counts.  Newburyport News will run an announcement of the meeting in Thursday's paper.

June 22 - Dick M emails me suggesting getting the messages out via Facebook or Yahoo groups.  I had been thinking on this for a while and knew it was something that needed to be done, I just hadn't had the time to do it, nor had I figured out the best technolgy to use.  I sent him a long winded email that really was just me thinking out loud, and in the end I decided to give Trunity a go for a number of reasons.  They are local (Portsmouth) and are moving to Newburyport, and they had a software platform that I felt in theory would work better than Facebook or Yahoo and wanted to see if it worked in practice. 

June 22 - 23 - Put together the site you are reading.  Contacted Trunity to see if they were willing to provide me with some technical support in best practices for using their software.

June 23 - Newburyport News calls with questions about the meeting.  I also provide them with the URL to this website.  By doing that, the clock is now ticking and I need to get this thing done.

June 23 - Trunity CEO Terry Anderton calls me.  I explain what I'm doing and suggested that since they are moving to Newburyport, perhaps he might be interested in helping.  He is at the airport leaving on a business trip to Milan, but conferences in his creative director (Mariah Gale) who commits to prettying up the site.  She asks for photos of the park, my wife runs across the street and takes some.  Mariah is also local and will be attending the meeting.

Whew........  that took way too long to compile.  I may revise it over the coming days, but that's enough to catch people up.