Dam, Dog Owners at Odds Over Park

Wilder — A group of more than a dozen dog walkers expressed concern about plans by the new owner of the Wilder Dam that could prevent them from accessing a riverside dog park during the winter months.

“We’ve been coming here for 10 or 15 years. Maybe 20,” said Mary Wieland, a retired King Arthur Flour worker from Norwich who was meeting a group of dog owners for a daily romp around Kilowatt South, a town-operated park on land owned by Great River Hydro between Passumpsic Avenue and the Connecticut River.

The park has a single parking lot with a boat launch; to the south of the parking lot is a soccer field, and beyond that is the off-leash dog area.

During the winter months, when snow makes walking past the unplowed soccer field difficult, dog owners traditionally have parked in a lot that is designated for Great River Hydro employees as they access the Wilder Dam, which is situated beyond the southern boundary of the off-leash dog area.

From that lot, dog owners can cross Wilder Dam Road and walk past a large outbuilding to get to the off-leash area.

But that tradition has some problems with it, said Matthew Cole, a spokesman for Great River Hydro. When the firm purchased the dam earlier this year from TransCanada, it also inherited the land that the park occupies, and a long-standing lease agreement with the town.

“It’s a safety thing,” Cole said on Tuesday. “They’re parking in a lot and crossing a sometimes busy road there. Employees have had some close calls with some unleashed dogs in the road.”

Wieland and other dog walkers mentioned the same issue, but said the problem was that the dam workers drive along the road at high rates of speed.

“We just kind of do our thing,” said Hermine Wallach, a retired Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center worker from Wilder, who said she visits the park with her dog twice a day.

In addition to closing public access to the lot, Cole said, he is asking the town to encourage the public to observe a boundary in…

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