Responsible Urbanites For Fido (RUFF) was formed in June 2012 with the two founders responding to neighborhood complaints; dogs on ball fields, people not cleaning up after their dogs, and off-leash dogs. Two North End residents and dog lovers who couldn’t understand why both dogs and humans couldn’t coexist started to connect with the dog community and found four other dog owners who join in forming RUFF – a small, community dog group whose purpose was to bridge the gap between dog owners and non dog owners – working to make the neighborhood better for all. Setting up core principals with responsible dog ownership being at the heart of the message. Today, RUFF’s board is comprised of five members with two of the original six still involved and the same principals and goals as 2012.
RUFF started with community clean ups, park clean-ups and seasonal prep. The group slowly started to gain more followers and get interest from the community. They started hosting educational activities for dog owners with trainers and veterinarians, free of charge. From that, they then started to get asked to come to neighborhood meetings and speak on issues with dogs in the neighborhood. Shortly after, RUFF organized as a charity with the state of MA and formed the Board structure that is in in place today.
The original goal was never to bring a dog park to the North End, it was to help promote responsible dog ownership and respect the neighborhood that we all call home. As momentum grew, the first big break came in the form of a facelift and some love for the dilapidated Richmond Street Dog Run. With some help from Mass DOT and the City of Boston, RUFF’s Boston Shines project came alive. With the dog run spruced up, the usership increased dramatically. The need for an actual dog park was a growing need for the small neighborhood. RUFF formed as a 501c3 and began the search for property. Where do you find a patch of grass and outdoor space in this densely populated neighborhood? Hours of research were spent trying to think outside the box. RUFF made a play for a Greenway parcel, which was met with great support, but ultimately did not win. The group was approached by the Mayor’s office with an option: the flights in what’s known as “The Gassy”. The parcel was on the list, but ranked dead last. The park wasn’t a park; it was a dumping ground for everything. The usage of the space was bad. Drugs, underage drinking and worse were consuming the flights in “They Gassy”. With the notion that there may not be another option, a plan to open a pilot park was formed. With grant funding, $30K was spent cleaning up the park, dredging for needles and glass in the tree beds, adding new fencing, secure gates and adding more lighting. There was one stipulation when the park opened; that it would be locked at night. To change the usage of the park and reassure neighborhood residents it was safe, board members and volunteers manually locked and unlocked the gates morning and night. The usage and stigma of the park changed, it was loved again. RUFF, in partnership with the City of Boston, was able to win hundreds of thousands of grant funding , and privately fundraised within the North End community.
Architects were brought on to design a green space that would enhance the neighborhood and be something the North End could be proud of. Extensive time was spent with neighbors and community members to gather their thoughts and views on the future of the space. In the fall of 2017, the North End Dog Park opened. Being a city park, privately funded and managed by a nonprofit, this park is the first of its kind in the Northeast, and we suspect in the country. Referred to as a “hidden gem” in the North End, this once grim, dark and abused park is bright, green and safe again. Along this journey, RUFF met and worked with some truly amazing folks in the North End, and feels connected and protective of the neighborhood. The organization still does clean ups, monitors problem areas, ask people to leash up and attends community meetings and plans to keep being active neighbors in the future!