By Lisa Keen, Globe Correspondent
Paul Cramer used to have a dog – Alice, a mutt. A friend had found the dog on the side of the road in Texas , abandoned and caught up in some barb-wired. The friend brought the dog to Cramer, who readily adopted it. After many years, Alice passed on and now circumstances are such that Cramer can’t have a dog. But he’s not anti-dog.
Neither is Heidi Gross, who has two dogs.
But both Gross and Cramer say they have felt the scorn of many dog lovers in Wellesley because they sit on the town’s Natural Resources Commission. That five-member commission recently enacted a new regulation restricting when dogs can play off-leash at one of the town’s smallest public fields, Perrin Park.
Cramer and Gross survived a re-election challenge last week from two citizens who believe the Perrin dog regulations are unfair to dog owners. But the controversy, they say, is not going away. In fact, they expect it to worsen later this month.
That’s because on March 31, the Commission is set to re-examine the new regulation it put in place following a February 7 public hearing on the matter. That regulation allows dog owners to let their canines play off-leash at Perrin Park from 7 to 9:30 a.m. in the morning and from 3 to 5:30 p.m. in the afternoon.
The policy represents a compromise from tougher leash law regulations at the park.
But come spring, the Department of Public Works is expected to close sections of the park to allow for maintenance and the longer daylight hours are expected to increase traffic. So the Natural Resources Commission has said it would revisit the policy.
Vernon Ellinger, one of two challengers for a commission seat, said he hopes they keep the current compromise.
The compromise has solved every rational objection that’s been made” about dogs in the park, said Ellinger. And he questions the real motives behind the objections.
“I think it’s just some [park abutters] trying to make this a private space,” said Ellinger. “And I think if the commissioners would just go out there, they’d see that.” Ellinger said most people who take their dogs to the park live in the area; and many are elderly and can’t easily get to and use other parks.
But Cramer said, “The compromise will probably change. You can’t have off-leash dogs while lacrosse and soccer games are going on. Plus the animal control officer prefers dogs on leash.”
In fact, Wellesley’s existing overall regulation calls for dogs to be on leash –or under control by voice command—at all times on public property.
“It’s not just about the dogs,” said Cramer. “Wellesley’s a crowded town. There’s not a lot of open space, and we’ve got to discuss how to use it, and use by dogs needs to be restricted so it can be used by others.”
The Commission is set to continue its discussion of Perrin Park in particular at its next regularly scheduled meeting, this Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall.
“We will have to deal with this issue on an ongoing basis,” predicted Gross. “The doggies are going to be news for some time to come.”