Social and Political Commentary

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Where, please, is the 'park' at Mount Hood?

... Dog ban raises the issue of identifying area at Mount Hood that is supposed to be a park

by Joe Sullivan



Mount Hood's 75-year-old fireplaces hosted many community parties -- before the advent of
portable stoves.
 

The 4 to 1 vote of the Park Commission at its August meeting to ban dogs from Mount Hood has produced
a strong reaction from dog owners who have used the Hood as a place to walk their dogs.

The vote was taken at a meeting to which the Commission had invited the public. Joan Bell,
Superintendent of Parks, said in a telephone conversation that players with course memberships, the
Melrose Dog Society, and individuals who had inquired earlier about the possibility of a ban,
including Ward Six Alderman Peter Mortimer, had been advised of the upcoming meeting either by email
or phone. These contacts quite likely accounted for the large number of people who attended the
meeting. The meeting was highly contentious with the attendees, made up mostly of dog owners,
sometimes vehement in their objections to the proposed ban.

It should be pointed out that the Commission did not take its vote until after the dog owners were
heard. The vote was taken in full view of the people who attended the meeting.

Voicing a taxpayer's right

The most frequently spoken objection to a ban was that Mount Hood was public land and that a taxpayer
has the right to use it to walk his dog provided he does so within the law which, in this case, meant
on a leash. Mount Hood, many said, was not only a golf course but a park.

Ward Six Alderman, Peter Mortimer, a dog owner and in whose Ward Mount Hood lies, emphasized that
Mount Hood was not only a golf course but a park. The name of the facility is Mount Hood Memorial
Park and Golf Course, he said. The Park, according to Alderman Mortimer, is larger than the golf
course.

Alderman Mortimer in an effort to rescind the ban drafted a resolution that he presented at the Board
of Aldermen’s’ meeting on the following Monday, August 20. The resolution, printed on stationery from
the Office of the Mayor, was offered as a compromise to the ban. It was signed by the Mayor, Alderman
Mortimer, the Chief of Police, the City Solicitor, the President of the Mount Hood Park Association
and even a Park Commissioner who had voted for the ban, ten people in all.

No real change to current policy

The resolution itself cited six issues. Most of them dealt with the conditions under which people
could walk their dogs. These were, in substance, the same conditions that were in effect before the
Park Commission voted for the ban. What the resolution really proposed is to keep things as they were
before the ban. In effect it doesn’t call for a compromise but elimination of the ban. It was to be
presented to the Park Commission at its upcoming September meeting.

The resolution makes some mind-bending statements. After saying that Mount Hood consists of a park
and a golf course. it goes on to say that some areas are golf course and park simultaneously. What
this does is to justify walking on the golf course or on roads adjacent to it in order to access
places like Slayton Tower or the Weston Memorial or the Fish and Game Club. It should be recognized
that these are all areas where you could be beaned by a golf ball.

The difficulty with the resolution is that it does not designate areas where dog walkers are entitled
to walk without fear of being struck, namely the park. Where is the park at Mount Hood?

The Webster’s New World Dictionary gives two definitions of a park. One is “wooded land held as part
of an estate or reserve.” The other is “an area of public land with walks and playgrounds, etc., for
recreation.” At Mount Hood we have the A., wooded land but we do not have B., the walks, and
playgrounds.

Alderman Mortimer’s resolution refers to Mount Hood park as though it was in category B when the
objective evidence is that Mount Hood park is in category A. What is evident is that you cannot walk
your dog in the heavily wooded area. For all the money the golf course has earned no walking paths,
recreation areas, or picnic areas have ever been built into the heavily wooded area that makes up
Mount Hood Park.

Hood's current name comes from State law that created it

Item six in the resolution cites that the official name of the Mount Hood facility is the "Mount Hood
Memorial Park and Golf Course." But what made this the official name was a law that the Massachusetts
Legislature enacted to establish Mount Hood in March 1936. Chapter 124 said the public land known as
the "Mount Hood Memorial Park and Golf Course" was to be used as a public golf course and recreation
center.

Chapter 124 also said that money earned at Mount Hood must be spent at Mount Hood. In October 2010
the Board of Aldermen acting on the mayor’s proposal voted to set aside Chapter 124 to get the Mount
Hood money to finance the new athletic field complex and running track. The law they set aside to get
the money was the same law that made “Mount Hood Memorial Park and Golf Course” the official name for
Mount Hood.

The public meetings being used now to settle the dog-walking issue were nowhere to be seen when the
mayor and aldermen passed the legislation that set aside the restrictions set down in Chapter 124
that prevented the city from taking money earned at Mount Hood and use it for other projects.

Dog walkers lose out with set aside of Chapter 124

No one ever got the chance to ask the mayor or aldermen what was in Chapter 124 that would be set
aside because of the new legislation. The result of this set-aside was the Mount Hood money that
could have financed the development of walkways and recreation areas would be used instead to finance
an athletic field complex.  

If the dog walkers had been given the opportunity to find out what the 124 set aside would take away
from them, they quite likely would have objected to the set aside in the same way that they are
objecting to the dog ban now.

The irony now is that name, “Mount Hood Memorial Park and Golf Course”, that was established in
Chapter 124 is the very same law that, at the mayor’s urging, the aldermen voted to set aside in
October 2010.  

For whatever it is called, there is no park at Mount Hood where owners can walk their dogs. That’s
the reason there is a problem now. Dog walkers are using the only area left to them at Mount Hood, an
area on or adjacent to the golf course .

The dog walkers should not look forward to getting any of the Mount Hood golf money to build any
walking trails or recreation areas soon. The city expects Mount Hood golf course to come up with
$400,000 a year for the next 25 years in order to pay for the athletic fields. Imagine how tall the
trees in the Mount Hood “Park” will be then.

September 7, 2012
                    


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