Dog park is popular, but some sites aren’t

 

Virginia Harris, president of Friends of Boothe Park, explains why she thinks the 32-acre park would be an inappropriate location for a dog park during the Town Hall forum last Thursday. — Brad Durrell photo

Virginia Harris, president of Friends of Boothe Park, explains why she thinks the 32-acre park would be an inappropriate location for a dog park during the Town Hall forum last Thursday. — Brad Durrell photo

 

While many people spoke in favor of building a dog park in Stratford during a recent Town Hall forum, they don’t all agree on the most ideal location.

Roosevelt Forest and Longbrook Park appeared to have the most support among the more than 30 public speakers at the Jan. 12 meeting. Some people, however, spoke strongly against Longbrook Park, a 41-acre parcel between Main and East Main streets that is surrounded by homes.

Boothe Memorial, Great Meadows and Short Beach parks also are under consideration for the facility by the Stratford Dog Park Subcommittee, which will offer recommendations to the Parks & Recreation Committee. A report should be provided in February to the Town Council, which has the final say on where to put a dog park.

Stratford has been trying to settle on a site since 2007, when the Town Council passed an ordinance supporting a dog park. The council voted against a location near the town’s animal shelter last August.

The local animal control officer, Rachel Solveira, and the Parks & Recreation Committee are to provide input on a site. A minimum of one acre is likely needed for the facility.

The subcommittee is considering seven specific locations at the five municipal parks, with two possible spots being at Longbrook and Boothe parks.

Subcommittee Co-chairman John Rich said the group began its efforts six months ago by looking at 30 suggested possible locations.

“We want to recognize your comments and concerns,” he told the audience at the start of the meeting.

Rich said the subcommittee isn’t likely to suggest one specific location but to instead offer viewpoints on the seven final sites.

“We’ve heard recommendations against all these sites. We’ve heard recommendations in favor of all these sites,” he said.

“It’s a tough one,” Rich told the audience, noting many speakers had opposed precise locations while saying they favor having a dog park.

 

Public input

Speakers at the meeting offered a variety of views, and only two people indicated during a show of hands at the beginning that they oppose having a dog park in town.

“I think it’s shameful Stratford doesn’t have a dog park,” resident Beth Schulkind said.

Resident Joseph Pedoto said surrounding towns have dog parks.

“It’s not rocket science. Stratford can do this,” he said.

Resident Claudine Cody said people with dogs deserve one park in town just as families with children can now enjoy many parks in Stratford. “The benefits are immeasurable,” she said, adding that canine owners have shown they are responsible when using dog parks in nearby communities.

Proponents pointed out that a dog park would be a fenced-in facility, limiting interaction with other people in a park.

Those speaking against specific locations raised concerns about the impact of a dog park. “Has anyone calculated how much dog poop will be generated by a facility like this?” resident Rick Minton asked while opposing Boothe Park as a site.

Another Boothe Park opponent, resident Karin Douglas, said she visits the Milford dog park and many owners don’t pick up after their dogs. “It is a mess and you can smell it in the summer,” she said.

 

Specific sites

Longbrook Park proponents said the park is accessible to many people, already hosts lots of activities, and now attracts some dog walkers. This “shows it would be used quite a bit,” said David Capozzi, who lives near Longbrook Park and supports putting it there.

But detractors said a dog park at Longbrook could disrupt the many surrounding homes, organized youth and school sports activities, and children walking through the park to get to school.

“It’s meant for kids,” nearby resident Devney Worsdale said of the park, describing it as being “smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood.”

Two representatives of Stratford Pop Warner said a dog park at Longbrook could cause problems for young football players. Mike Palmieri, a coach, said youngsters running around the park would “look like prey” to loose dogs, claiming “unleashed dogs” already have chased players in the park.

Resident Alice Arcuri, a Longbrook Park supporter, said what’s best for the entire community must be considered.

“We have to get away from the ‘not-in-my-back yard’ syndrome,” she said.

Those favoring the 401-acre Roosevelt Forest said the location would not impact many nearby homeowners, offers plenty of land and has ample parking. The proposed location is near the underutilized ranger station.

Many speakers voiced opposition to Boothe Memorial, with most of them being neighbors or members of the nonprofit Friends organization that supports the park in the town’s Putney section.

They pointed to the park’s National Register of Historic Places listing, deed restrictions, unique character, many programs, and educational role, and the possible negative impact on event rentals and bird-watching activities. Gwen Ackley, a descendent of the Boothe brothers who donated the land to the town, said her ancestors would oppose the idea.

A few speakers spoke against Great Meadows, focusing on the fact that the park is supposed to remain undeveloped and is off a heavily trafficked road with many commercial businesses. Resident Mike Sinnott said neighbors have “pulled together as a united front” to defeat other unpopular ideas for the open land near Sikorsky Airport.

Few comments were made by speakers about Short Beach.

 

In memoriam

Resident Rob Levine offered to help pay for the cost of the dog park in the memory of his son, Jared, an animal lover and former EMT and volunteer firefighter who died in March 2016 at age 36. Jared was a 1998 Bunnell High School graduate and liked to spend time outdoors.

Rob Levine spoke in favor of Roosevelt Forest as a location, calling it “the least offensive to most people,” but said he could back any reasonable location. His comments received loud applause from the audience.

Paula Lockshier of the Stratford Dog Park Action Committee, a subcommittee member, thanked the Levines for their offer, saying the family is “trying to do something positive for the town.” She said she would support naming the dog park after Jared Levine.

In addition to Lockshier and Rich, other subcommittee members attending the forum were Bob Jaekle (co-chairman), Solveira, and Danielle Stella of the Stratford Animal Rescue Society.

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