A proposed pilot program to turn an unused space at the First Church in Jamaica Plain into an unleashed, membership-based dog run will be voted on at the church board's annual meeting on June 4.
The proposal is to take approximately 13% of the burial ground, about 30 feet by 90 feet nearest to Eliot Street, and make it into a fenced in space for a limited number of dogs to run off leash. The space is about 10 feet away from any monuments or markers, and 10 feet away from the crypts on the north side.
Membership will be restricted, and there will be limits on the number of dogs allowed at any one time, and there will be limited hours of operation. A dog-owners group will decide membership by accepting applications, providing an orientation for guidelines of use, and also monitor the space.
"Our obligation is to minimize any disruption to the neighborhood, while meeting an unserved need for others. The requirements will be enforced by the dog owners' group," said Dennis O'Brien, Co-chair of the First Church JP Governing Board. "If they are unable to do so, then the pilot program will end."
The church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988, and if the pilot program is successful, the church will be required to submit plans for an extension once more to the Massachusetts Historical Commission, as well as the congregation, said O'Brien. He said that there isn't anything in the church's listing on the National Register of Historic Places to preclude the plans.
O'Brien said that the church is looking to satisfy a need of a place for dogs to run off leash, but is hoping there will be other locations in Jamaica Plain.
"It is our hope that the city of Boston will be successful in their efforts to establish a few dog parks for Jamaica Plain. With the highest per capita ownership of dogs for any area in the city these are badly needed," said O'Brien. "We would love nothing better than for this plan to become unnecessary. It has been and remains a challenge for the city. Dog parks seem to be one of those ideas which most people believe is a good idea, but a good idea for somewhere else."
He added that the First Church sees one of its missions in the world to expand community rather than curtail access to it.