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A group of Amherst residents is working to build interest in setting aside parkland where dogs can roam free.

The volunteer committee -- which calls itself Off-Leash Recreational Area -- will discuss a proposal for a fenced-in "doggie run" inside a town park during informational meetings planned for 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday in Harlem Road Community Center, 4255 Harlem Road, and 7 to 9 p.m. April 20 in Williamsville East High School, 151 Paradise Road.

Dog owner Mike Rogers, a committee member, said the grass-roots campaign was begun about two years ago after several dog owners -- during a public hearing on the draft master plan for Amherst State Park -- advocated a closed-in recreational park for unleashed dogs.

"This would be a fenced-in, grassy area within the structure of an existing park," Rogers said. "The Town Board has been generally supportive, as long as there is no burden on the taxpayer.

"We want to start making the public aware (of this plan) so they can voice their concerns and we can garner additional support."

Amherst Supervisor Susan J. Grelick said she has spoken with members of the group and is open to the idea.

"I've told them that if they can find a way to do it without burdening the taxpayers, I'm willing to work with them," Grelick said.

Rogers said the committee is seeking private sponsorship, which has supported similar parks in Rochester and Syracuse.

"We're seeking contingency approval right now, and after that, our committee would then shift into fund-raising mode to develop the park," Rogers said.

He said that even though many dog owners in the town might have back yards for their pets, a doggie run would aid some elderly and physically challenged pet owners who might be unable to exercise their dogs at home.

Such parks also foster a sense of community among dogs and their owners, Rogers added.


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