An already frayed relationship between the Tiverton Library Board of Trustees and supporters of the Raymond F. Jones Memorial Dog Park took a turn for the worse last week after the library installed …
An already frayed relationship between the Tiverton Library Board of Trustees and supporters of the Raymond F. Jones Memorial Dog Park took a turn for the worse last week after the library installed a new fence along the dog park’s border, adjacent to the library’s parking lot.
The fence, which has been on the library’s list of “to do” projects for more than a year, is intended to clearly show the dog park’s boundaries and its entrance point, and to encourage visitors to use parking spaces on the nearby town recreation property on Roosevelt Avenue, rather than library property, when using the park.
But not all appreciate it, and in online discussions have called it “spite fence,” a “vindictive” act, and more dramatically, “the Mason/Dixon line of Tiverton public property.”
In addressing the pushback, library director Catherine Damiani said David Paull, co-chairman of the dog park advisory committee, made a commitment to the library trustees in the spring of 2022 to build the fence.
Eventually, according to Damiani, the library trustees decided to handle the project themselves. After soliciting bids, they hired a contractor to build the fence at a cost of $3,490, using funds from an account made up of contributions from the Friends of Tiverton Libraries, general donations, and fee income. She said the trustees updated the dog park’s representatives and town officials on their plans throughout the process.
But in correspondence with the Tiverton Town Council earlier this fall, and in a recent interview, Paull acknowledged discussing installation of the fence with Carol Herrmann, chairman of the library’s board of trustees, but denied making any promises to her.
“I never said ‘We will put a fence up.’ I said it is something we would look into, but we didn’t know how that was going to affect access and maintenance.”
Paull said he and his fellow board members have been waiting to hear about a suggested date for a meeting with town officials and the library’s representatives regarding creation of an easement for the purpose of using library property (technically town-owned property) to access the dog park.
“The next thing I know, they’re putting a fence up.”
While Paull blames poor communication between his committee, the library and town leaders for ongoing tensions, he said the library’s handling of the fence installation is unacceptable.
“What right does the library have to restrict access from taxpayer-funded land to taxpayer-funded land?”
While he believes the library’s 70-plus parking spaces are more than adequate for everyone, he said he often urges dog park visitors to avoid the lot and to use the dog park’s designated parking spaces on Roosevelt Ave. Some have refused, telling him, “I’m a resident, I pay taxes, and I’ll park here if I want.”
Paull and others on his committee said the fence creates a host of problems, including the elimination of a staging area for deliveries of materials such as wood chips and stone, as well as the loss of a convenient access point for emergency vehicles. Committee members who worry about safety issues for individuals and their dogs crossing Roosevelt Ave., say the town now needs to install a speed bump for better protection of pedestrians on that stretch of road.
Paull believes the best solution is improved communications. “There are far more important things to deal with than a petty fence issue,” he said. “I don’t want to see the library get bashed. The concept of what a library is and what they do over there is fantastic. But it all comes down to lack of communication in this town.”
Damiani noted that information related to the controversy is posted on the library’s website at https://tivertonlibrary.org/recent-media-inquiry/
Expressing concerns about negative comments on online forums directed towards library staff, she said, “Those making such comments should understand that, other than myself, the library staff have never been involved in this project or process…Any questions or concerns should be made directly to me or the Library Board of Trustees via email, phone, or in-person contact.”