My name is Lindsay Nyquist. I am a resident of Plymouth, a mother of two young children, and a realtor. I am also part of a small group of neighbors who have been meeting up at the Allerton St. Park from 8AM to 9AM each morning for the past two and a half years to enjoy coffee and conversation and to let their dogs socialize with one another.
As the board is surely aware, complaints about this informal neighborhood meet-up and the presence of dogs in the park has led to numerous interactions between ACO Anzalone and park visitors. These interactions have become increasingly personal in nature, increasingly tense and increasingly unprofessional including statements by the ACO that she hopes one of the Dogs gets hit by a car.
In short, things have gotten completely out of control for no good reason. I appreciate the board adding this topic to the public comments section. I hope that as a result of these discussions we may arrive at a place where all neighbors can enjoy fair and equitable access to and enjoyment of this little neighborhood park.
I have been asked by the other members of this informal meet-up group (most of whom are here tonight) to be the sole speaker on the group’s behalf. While I know that each of them feels as passionately about this topic as I do and would each certainly have a lot to say if they spoke individually, we have elected instead to present the following brief collective statement out of respect for the board’s time for the sake of clarity and in pursuit of a resolution to the matter.
As those who have been “up close and personal” with the events as they have developed, we feel it is important to tell “our side of the story”, to correct some gross mischaracterizations in the record and to provide additional background that may be helpful in allowing the board to get to the bottom of this matter.
The board should have already received a letter describing how this warm and welcoming group of neighbors came together during covid and how it has come to mean so much to those who are part of it. While I was not an original member of the informal group, I was immediately welcomed in with open arms and quickly came to know and form a deep bond of friendship with each member. I can honestly say that the 8-10 people who gather at the park each morning with their dogs are the friendliest, kindest group of people I have come across so far. At a time when our society is so divided and disconnected from one another along so many lines, the way this group of strangers have come together as a community of support and friendship has truly restored my faith in the power of human connection. As a realtor, the first thing I would tell prospective buyers is that the sense of community at this little park would be the single biggest selling feature of the neighborhood. The presence of so many others here tonight and their passion about this issue is a testament to the fact that they feel the same way.
The board also has received a document containing ACO Anzalone’s reports related to the park, arranged in chronological order. Reading through this document the board should be able to get a clear sense of how what started as a response to persistent complaints from an abutter unhappy about the presence of a group of people and their dogs in the park (during permissible hours) led to a series of interactions between ACO and the group that became increasingly personal and confrontational over time.
Initial interventions from The ACO in response to persistent complaint calls were uneventful. ACO reports either no one was at the park or no leash violations were observed. It was around this time that the morning group began to notice a neighbor across the street standing on his front porch daily, just staring at the group.
The complaints about the group (presumably from the same abutter) became more frequent and contained new, false claims of bad behavior among the group including having “recklessly barking” dogs, being in the park before 8AM, not picking up waste, sitting down and ignoring their dogs, and the claim that the park was now “undesirable for children”. The record shows that ACO became invested in the issue and assured the complainant that she would increase patrols looking for violations. Early reports from these patrols showed no violations from the morning group at the park but did document descriptions of dogs that happened to be simply walking in the neighborhood with their owners.
The first significant interaction between the ACO and the morning group was on 8/4/21. This was where tensions increased. ACO reports that she arrived at the park and approached several members of the group who were “polite” and willing to be compliant with leash laws. It is more accurate to say that she arrived on the scene and immediately began demanding names and license plate numbers of park visitors, most of whom had walked to the park from their nearby homes. She notes that one member (who’s dog was leashed and remained leashed) became “belligerent” in response (to her demands for identification).
While this member of the group acknowledges that she was less than polite in her interactions with the ACO, it was because she felt that the ACO’s confrontational attitude and forceful statements about a leash law weren’t relevant to her since her dog was leashed. She also felt that between the glaring stares of the neighbor, their consistently exaggerated and untrue complaints and increasingly frequent patrols from animal control that this morning meet-up group was being unfairly and unnecessarily targeted.
The next report from the ACO from 8/12/21 shows that after her unpleasant interaction with this one member of the group, ACO Anzalone launched a personal campaign to put an end to the’ Never ending situation” of a group of neighbors gathering at the park with their dogs for an hour. She proactively reached out to other town agencies including the Park Department, town manager and select board to see if she could have the fence taken down around the park, and was successful in her efforts to have the trash barrels removed. All of this despite having issued no citations for leash violations, finding no evidence of dog waste in the park, and finding no violations of quiet hour barking.
Following ACO’s expressed desire to see the fence removed, the group began to notice overnight vandalism to the gates where someone would hammer the hinges so the gates could not be closed properly. The morning group would repair the gates each time. Soon thereafter The Park Department came and removed the gates entirely. It was around this time that we noticed the grass was not being cut at the park. A member of the group called to the Park department to inquire about the lack of care to the town park. She was told that crews were no longer cutting the grass because the park was “completely covered in dog feces and crews were having to go home to change their clothes because they were getting covered from head to toe in dog mess.” The group member told the park dept staff that she found this claim to be ridiculous since the morning group is vigilant about immediately picking up not only their own dog’s waste but also that of other park users along with any trash, beer cans etc. left behind by them as well. When invited to come inspect the cleanliness of the park and the lack of dog waste to be found, the park dept. staff declined. That weekend the group voluntarily mowed and trimmed the park themselves and found no dog waste issue as expected.
Of particularly disturbing interaction with ACO Anzalone occurred on 9/21/21 when ACO arrived intent on catching leash violations and issuing citations. During this visit She again engaged with the same group member with whom she had had a previous altercation saying that she wishes she didn’t have to “come and babysit” the people at this park and that soon it “won’t be an issue because she is going to have the gates removed”. The group member said she would not be intimidated out of a public park and would continue to bring her dog on a leash to the park every morning. To which ACO replied “And when you do, I hope your dog gets hit by a car .” This outrageous and heartless statement was heard by several witnesses and caused a great deal of agitation. ACO called for police who advised her to leave the scene. The group member later called David Gould, director of fish and wildlife to inform him of his employee’s egregious behavior. The director apologized and thanked this group member for deciding not to file a formal complaint.
Most recently, a very telling police report from 5/30/22 at 8:33 AM (also attached) shows that ACO Anzalone called for police to ACCOMPANY her to “Help remove people with dogs from the park”. We find it very telling that ACO Anzalone made this call for police backup indicating her desire to “remove people from the park” PRIOR to her arrival at the park and with NO indication that any leash laws were being violated.
The police report also shows that ACO had prepared police for what to expect by telling dispatch that this group had become “aggressive and belligerent” in the past (presumably referring to her previous heated interactions with one of the group members upon whose dog ACO wished harm.). Police and ACO found NO leash violations and issued no violations
Members of the group stated to police that the false nature of the relentless complaints against this group of friends using the park (unkept dog waste, early morning “reckless barking”, and scared children) coupled with the ACO’s expressly personal vendetta to “put an end” to this “situation”, her proactive collaboration with other agencies to drastically alter a neighborhood park with zero input from neighbors, 200 of whom have signed an online petition in opposition to this plan, all in an effort to make the space unusable (an unsafe) has now crossed the line into harassment.
We do believe this is the case.
Despite being painted by the ACO as belligerent, aggressive adversaries, the truth is that the group I am speaking for this evening is just an open, small gathering of Plymouth neighbors, who have become close friends as a result of simply getting together with one another and their dogs for an hour in the morning. We enjoy talking about our kids and our jobs, telling stories and jokes and just enjoying one another’s company. Despite the fact that one or a small handful of abutters would apparently rather not have people or dogs in the park across the street from their house, there is nothing threatening or nefarious about this gathering. In fact it is exactly the type of thing that public parks are INTENDED to encourage. It also happens to be a wonderful way to start the day.
As neighbors looking to peaceably enjoy the park, we would like to see this contentious matter resolved to the satisfaction of all involved.
Given that the group meets during permissible hours, town by laws allow dogs to be present, and the morning group has a proven track record of cleaning up and caring for the park, the only remaining issue of concern appears to be the matter of leash law enforcement.
By the ACO’s own admission, members of the group have shown their willingness to comply with the leash bi-laws as currently written. They have also shown their intention to continue to meet together even with their dogs 100% on leash. That being said, everyone know that dogs would much prefer to be able to run and play with their dog friends rather than stand beside their owners on a leash. (Something that actually encourages barking). With this in mind, we propose an amendment to the bylaws to allow dogs off leash at this park between the hours of 8-10am each day.
This cooperative solution seems the least drastic and least disruptive approach. It would not involve the labor and expense of removing a perfectly good fence against the will of neighbors, it would preserve the beauty and utility of the green space while protecting the safety of people using the park and allow neighbors, it would allow all residents, those with and without dogs to have fair and equitable access to enjoyment of this public asset throughout the day and It would free up the ACO officer and the Plymouth PD to tend to more pressing matters.
We thank the board for your time and attention in this matter and the opportunity to contribute to its successful resolution.