The Shelburne Village Dog Park rests directly atop a Class II wetland, making for a sometimes-muddy experience, but with three acres to run and sniff it’s doubtful the dogs are doing much complaining.

But another consequence of the park’s wetland classification has arisen in recent years that could cause some harm to visiting pooches: several invasive plant species, some that could be quite harmful to dogs, have appeared within the park.

Buckthorn, honeysuckle, burdock and “quite a bit of wild parsnip, which is that very dangerous plant,” have been found within and just outside the park’s fencing, according to Bob Owens, the chair of the Shelburne Dog Park Committee.

The poison parsnip found near the park could potentially be fatal for dogs, and the buckthorn and honeysuckle, if left alone, could destroy park fencing.

The committee has been working for the last several months to formulate a plan to remove the species. The state awarded the committee an amendment to its permit to conduct the necessary work, and now they need to raise the money to do it.

With Shelburne Day coming up in August, the committee plans on launching a fundraiser via GoFundMe. They’ll have a table set up where people can scan their code and hopefully donate some cash. Residents in the meantime should reach out to the committee if they wish to donate.

“Since the park has been opened, we’ve done some fundraising on an occasional basis, but it’s never been for a big project like this,” Owens said. “We realized that now we’re going to have to go a little bit farther afield to find our money.”

They’ll need plenty of it. The full removal of the invasive species will be a two-step process and will cost upwards of $6,000.

“We have some money in our account, but we’re going to try and raise $5,000 with GoFundMe,” Owens said.

The timing all depends on how much they fundraise and when. The contractor will also have to manage the work depending on the growing season for these plants, but “we would hope that within a year, the existing plants would be removed, and then it would be just sort of a yearly maintenance after that,” Owens said.

For now, warning signs are going up in the park to warn park goers of the parsnip, which “is really a health concern” for dogs and their owners.

The park’s location on a wetland has been a point of irritation since it first opened in 2012. The 3-acre park, situated right next to Ti-Haul trail on Harbor Road, east of the village, was knowingly built on the Class II wetland but was approved by the state because the original plans only called for limited changes to the site such as fencing, invasive plant removal and lawn maintenance.

But in 2017, after volunteers completed a series of projects, including adding a gravel path, installing a waterline for a washing station, removing trees and shrubs and building a storage shed, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation in 2017 found the park was in violation of state wetland rules and may need to be removed because its improvements exceeded what state regulators consider appropriate for an environmentally sensitive spot.

The town began efforts to try and find a new location for the dog park but after two years scrapped the plan altogether.

Instead, they stripped away some of its added features — an exercise ring was removed, and a water spigot near the front of the park was disconnected, for example — and a permit was issued for the park to remain at the location in 2020.

“Based on the property available that the town owns, we just didn’t find anything that was suitable (and) when we decided to stay, we didn’t realize that this was going to be a problem. We didn’t discover it until a couple of years later,” Owens said. “We can’t really do too much to change the park — that’s the issue with the state.”

Here is the link to the Shelburne Dog Park Committee’s GoFundMe page

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