Near final approval, dog park successfully stalled

Progress on the Stratford dog park has stalled.

The Town Council approved a site at 225 Beacon Point Road, near the town’s animal control facility, in April. The town attorney found no objection. The Planning Commission gave a favorable recommendation for that site. The Parks and Recreation Committee submitted a set of rules for council approval in June. But the dog park item on the Town Council agenda was tabled, put on hold, after Stratford Animal Rescue Society (STARS) President Marjean O’Malley publicly objected to the site a few days before the council’s expected action.

O’Malley contends that the recreational dog park would interfere with the rehabilitation of the pre-adoptive dogs at the proposed adjacent facility.

No official action has been taken since then.

Stratford Dog Park Action Committee (SDPAC) members now refer to another site being planned, but they are not specific, and the Planning Commission chairman is in the dark.

O’Malley did not respond to requests for information for this article.

If there is a lack of consensus between STARS and SDPAC, it is not clear.

Chris Silhavey, chair of the planning commission, said that it was after the May planning meeting the commission realized there was “a difference of opinions” between the SDPAC and the not-for-profit STARS, which cares for animals at the town shelter.

Town Council Majority Leader Jim Connor said he has spoken to O’Malley, and he doesn’t “know what the plan is.”

“Right now I am concerned that there is pushback from the STARS people,” he said.


Mum on possible new site

Joe Pedoto, SDPAC board member, said their group has a possible new location sited, in case the current one falls through. He said he believed the new location would be on the agenda of the Planning Commission meeting on Aug. 19, but it was not.

Silhavey said he had no knowledge of a new piece of land being considered.

“There hasn’t been any official action one way or the other,” Silhavey said. “There has been no movement now, and I haven’t heard anything official on the council position. If they want us to look at another location, we will be happy to, but nobody has asked us.”

Paula Lockshier, board member of SDPAC, said, “At this point there is not much we would like to say about the potential new location, as right now it is simply a suggestion we are looking to make.”

Silhavey said that since June he has invited STARS representatives to planning commission meetings to give their feedback. He said “they have not availed themselves of it (the offer) yet.”

“I said, ‘we will let you speak and if that discussion yields additional recommendations, we will be happy to send them over (to the Town Council),’” Silhavey said.

Pedoto called the STARS organization “angels” and said there is no animosity between the two organizations.

“I think she (O’Malley) was reacting to the fact that (the town) made the offer to the dog park committee without consulting STARS,” Pedoto said.

The SDPAC has raised over $15,000 to pay for building the dog park facilities, including a $5,000 capital grant from the Petco Foundation that was to expire in April. Lockshier says the Petco grant, for the moment, is still available to the organization.

Carissa and Matt DeBernardo, president and vice president of the SDPAC, who have led the fund-raising effort for the park, are still involved with the organization, but are no longer allowed to speak at town meetings, because they moved to Fairfield in 2013 and are no longer Stratford taxpayers.

The next town council meeting is Sept. 8.

The land to the left of the fence and running away from camera is the space approved by Planning Commission for a dog park. It is across a driveway / parking are from Stratford Animal Control facility. Greg Reilly photo.

The land to the left of the fence and running away from camera is the space approved by Planning Commission for a dog park. It is across a driveway / parking are from Stratford Animal Control facility. Greg Reilly photo.

About author
Elizabeth Howard is a Stratford-based journalist, blogger and poet. She writes on the arts, education, music, the environment, green lifestyle, American culture, travel and food. You can find her online at

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