Happy trails in Portsmouth

Dog park at Melville opens new off-leash trail system

By Jim McGaw
Posted 7/10/24

PORTSMOUTH — Dogs and owners who prefer the rugged trails to an open space to gallop and socialize now have a happy medium.

The Portsmouth Dog Park, nestled within the Melville Park …

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Happy trails in Portsmouth

Dog park at Melville opens new off-leash trail system


PORTSMOUTH — Dogs and owners who prefer the rugged trails to an open space to gallop and socialize now have a happy medium.

The Portsmouth Dog Park, nestled within the Melville Park Recreation Area, how has a fenced-in trail system that has effectively doubled the size of the park. The wooded trail, which loops around the north and west sides of the park, is about half a mile long and allows dogs to roam unleashed — just like in the park itself. It includes three entrances into the park, with a double gate on the west side to allow for trucks if needed.

“I think it’s amazing,” said Laurie Anderson, a member of the Dog Park Committee, who escorted her 7-year-old golden retriever Emmie on the trail as soon as it opened Saturday morning. “The dogs are loving it. So many great smells for them to enjoy, and it’s a great way for their owners to get some exercise, too, instead of just sitting on a bench.”

Jane Regan, who chairs the dog park group, welcomed visitors during a brief ceremony before the official ribbon-cutting. The committee kept track of how many people used the dog park since it opened in 2017, and it was clear an expansion was needed, she said.

“Believe me, it was a lot more (work) than we expected,” Regan said. 

She thanked a good number of people for helping get the trails done, including Neal Hingorany of Narragansett Engineering, who designed the original park and started on the trails three years ago. “He was so patient with us. They did more than we asked them for,” she said.

Kudos also went out to Town Administrator Richard Rainer, Jr. for getting access to the property, and Department of Public Works Director Brian Woodhead. “He and Paul Rodrigues, his number two, have been so helpful to us and very patient with us because we’re not necessarily the easiest people to deal with,” she said.

The project was funded by the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, which was represented Saturday by Marykate Bergen, senior program officer. “Honestly, we wouldn’t have this park without them. I know their name’s not on it, but they don’t want their name on it,” Regan said.

Andrea Rounds of the Dog Park Committee walked volunteers “through the ins and outs of grant-making, which is huge and something again I didn’t know much about,” she said.

Students studying landscape design at the University of Rhode Island came up with great ideas for the trails, and the Beausoleil Bros., which won the bid to clear the paths, did excellent work and were easy to work with, Regan said.

‘One special person’

Most of the praise, however, was heaped on Regan herself. “It takes a village to make things happen, but sometimes there’s one special person to make it all come together. And that person is Jane Regan,” said Rounds.

Regan, she said, has scratched the ears of every dog in the park, takes photos of all the dogs and owners for the park’s website, sends out doggy Christmas cards, supplied the hand sanitizer during COVID, is best friends with the Portsmouth dog officer, and makes everyone who visits the park feel welcome.

“She’s the official mayor of the dog park” who makes it a “real community,” Rounds said.

Afterwards, Rounds shared how she got involved at the dog park. “My dog, Davey Crockett, died a couple of years ago, but when he was a baby I came here and Jane and Bunny took care of him and taught me everything,” she said.

“Bunny” is Bunny Miller, the dog park panel’s former chairperson and the person who was instrumental in getting the original park established. She was also recognized Saturday and given one of five scissors to cut the ribbon to open the trail system. 

“This is like a dream come true,” said Miller, who turns 85 next month. “When we built the park, we started planning in 2013 and it opened in 2017. This is all we could afford. We thought it would be enough, but there’s been so many dogs over the years.”

Miller summed up the sentiment held by many walking the trails and enjoying the park on Saturday. “We always had one of the best dog parks in Rhode Island. Now I think we have the best,” she said.

Regan agreed. “What made me so happy was people coming out of the trails saying, ‘Oh, that’s so great,’” she said.

One of them was Scott Daluz, a regular at the park with Nestle, his 1-year-old German short-hair pointer mix, despite living in New Bedford. He comes two or three days a week and helps the other volunteers out whenever he can.  

“I was just looking for dog parks, because I wanted to socialize him; my other dog was pretty reactive,” said Daluz, who plans on doing recall training — getting your dog to reliably come when called — within the trail system.

Funds still being raised

The trails are finished, but there’s still more work to be done at the park, Regan said. “We are still raising funds, because there are still things we wanted that we could not afford,” she said, adding that solar lights for the winter months is on the wish list

The Aquidneck Land Trust grant will help bring plantings along one side of the park, and plant donations are welcome. The committee also hopes to establish a memorial garden within the trails, although it won’t be for burials of pets or their ashes.

“It will be a place of self-reflection about the dogs in your life, past or present,” Regan said, adding that a local Boy Scouts troop might be interested in working on it.

She also urged dog-lovers to attend Newport International Polo’s All Charity Day Benefit Match scheduled for 5 p.m. on Sunday, July 14, at the polo grounds at Glen Farm. The Portsmouth Dog Park is among the beneficiaries, she said.

To learn more about the Portsmouth Dog Park, how to join the committee, buy a T-shirt or to donate, visit https://portsmouthdogparkri.com.

Portsmouth Dog Park, Melville Park Recreation Area, Melville Park, Melville Campgrounds, Dog Park Committee, Portsmouth Dog Park Committee

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Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.