By Phil Greazzo
After the FREE dog park on Bass Island was referred to Parks and Rec., I wondered why Jane Beaulieu opposed it. She previously supported the idea. What I've learned is, for the last 7 years, Rep. Beaulieu has torpedoed every attempt to sell or utilize Bass Island for any and all uses, other than hers. She's also had more than one chance at a million dollars or more to buy Bass Island, and hasn't been able to make it work.
Here’s a quick history:
In 2001, Henry’s Auto Body wanted to buy Bass Island. That didn’t happen because of an “environmental activist” the newspaper claimed.
On 7/23/02, Jane “hopes to raise $1million” to buy Bass Island.
On 9/23/02, the Trust for Public Land discussed purchasing the property with owner, James McDowell. That sale never happened.
On 4/28/03, Peter Stahl wanted to buy Bass Island and build Wild Willy’s burger emporium. By 9/26/03, Wild Willy’s was unanimously approved by the city. However on 11/19/03, Jane sued the land owner and the Planning Board for approving it and another Bass Island deal fell through.
In July of 2003, the Board voted unanimous to buy Bass Island but that deal never happened either. Jane then ran against Mayor Baines, claiming he wasn’t helping her enough with Bass Island and accused him of changing the Federal Floodway Designation for Wild Willy’s. By March of 2005, The Manchester Conservation Commission had to return $1million set aside for Bass Island after giving Jane an extension to try and raise some money.
On 6/13/05, the city approved $100,000 for the Blacksmith Shop which was on the market for more than $200k. On 11/3/05, it was considered for drug addicted women’s housing but then shot down. It was finally registered as Historical on 10/30/06 but burned down on 12/06/06. The city later purchased the land anyway for $115,000.
At the 12/02/08 hearing, Rep. Beaulieu testified that she would start raising funds to purchase Bass Island in about 3 months.That’s nearly a year later than she told James McDowell last spring, and 6 years from her initial fundraising date of 7/23/02. Jane also told Mr. McDowell that based on her interpretation; the expanded Shoreline Protection Act renders his land relatively unbuildable. If true, her plans to construct a building there would be un-acceptable too.
A museum resembling a Blacksmith shop, telling the history of Bass Island, won’t happen. Jane’s conceptual design shows a garden center on the “historical” site and next to that a pavilion, not a museum. What’s now called a “pavilion for fine craftsmen” is really space for a bike shop and healthy foods snack bar from the plan submitted in 2006. It’s something that would benefit her and her friends directly, while using taxpayer money to achieve it. The plan totals $1.4million and calls for about $350k of LCHIP money (but with no building to preserve, I don’t see how LCHIP money is possible), combined with what the city has already spent, we’re talking nearly a half million dollars of taxpayer money just to get it built. Additional money will also be needed to maintain the site. Whereas a dog park could be built and maintained there for free at no cost to the city’s taxpayers.
There’s more than enough room for a dog park, and whatever Jane wants to put there. Her design has most of the Island labeled a “play meadow” anyway, so why can’t both exist side by side? With the new Elliot Hospital project (at the former Jac-Pac site) creating a walking garden attached to the river walk, there’s really no need for a duplicate on Bass Island.
What I find most interesting is, at the time of his death, Carl Netsch, a Veteran and self-proclaimed "Mayor of Bass Island", requested that “in lieu of flowers”, donations be made to the Animal Rescue League of NH. You see, Mr. Netsch loved animals, especially his dog, Peanut. Since the blacksmith shop was never preserved, and there’s no plan to memorialize it, let’s honor Carl Netsch and the dog he loved so much by creating a dog park there named after him.
Phil Greazzo, Chairman
Manchester Dog Park Association