By Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter 4/2016
It’s not often that “PLAY NICE” is the core of two consecutive op/eds, but here we are.
If you’re new to Foxboro, the collective groan you just heard is the announcement that the dog park is back in the news.
Its history is complicated, but back in 2008, here in Foxboro, a battle raged – literally raged – over whether a dog park should be allowed to remain open. The dog park, which opened in 2006, became a legal battleground. For many months, week after week, the top story was the dog park. After much battling, it was closed. According to the Foxboro Reporter (4/8/2016), by 2011 the town spent $72,000 in legal fees over this matter.
Back in 2008, as I recall, people were screaming at each other in meetings. Dog Park made the news every week – EVERY WEEK. I’m not kidding. Front page, usually top of the fold: DOG PARK. It was a campaign question for good citizens running for office. The Foxboro Reporter web site comments section – which was open and available back then– exploded with pro and con dog park discussion — and it wasn’t pretty.
At the time, I made a HUGE mistake. I wrote a long piece about the dog park and posted it to the Foxboro Reporter comments section. My (to be honest) UNINFORMED opinion on the subject was met with a swift response and I was ANNIHILATED. And in fairness, some of my facts were wrong or missing – there was a lot of history I didn’t know (or understand at the time). I didn’t do my fact-checking and shame on me for that. It was a painful lesson but a necessary experience — I have since learned to have my ducks in a row before writing about such an electrically charged issue.
During the same period as the dog park war raged, properly chastened and a little terrified, I decided the best approach would be humor. So I followed up with a good-spirited op/ed in this paper that basically just poked fun at the entire thing and make inane, irreverent comments like asking why no one questioned any dogs about the issue (it’s THEIR park, after all) and how completely unrelated events (hurricane season, Miley Cyrus, for example) would affect a dog park. It was pretty goofy and had the desired effect of lightening the mood and injected some much needed humor into a volatile town discussion.
Here in 2016, this time, I will leave the serious dog park discussion to others because frankly, you all kind of scare me. I say that with great love, but it’s true.
So yes, give the dog park its due, give it LOTS of discussion.
I think a dog park for Foxboro would be nice – dogs have been an important part of most of my life – but I also understand the need to reach common ground for people who are on the opposite side of the dog park fence for any number of valid reasons.
EVERYONE deserves to be heard.
And then comes the magic: Discussion. Listening. Committees. Research. Discussion again and again. TALKING to each other. Not yelling at each other, not suing each other. TALKING.
Then: Compromise. Maybe a dog park IS possible. Maybe it just can’t be. I have NO idea. That’s up to you.
But if a compromise cannot be met, can this town PLEASE not spent another 70 large fighting in court for the next few years? If you read this paper regularly or follow town news at all you know there is a LOT going on – please keep in mind you’re talking about a dog park, not the opiate crisis.
If you live here you know we have important matters to attend to, and a dog park – while important, should not become a battleground (again). Give it its due, but please keep it in perspective.
So, using dog metaphors, PLAY NICE. NO BITE.