Since moving to town, has been rallying for a dog park. He and several supporters created a group, North Branford Unleashed, and presented the idea to town officials.
In October, he approached the Parks and Recreation Commission with the idea and came away from the meeting with several concerns to address–. Hodgson addressed those concerns in a presentation to Parks and Rec in January and the commission , pending space on the and approval from the Town Council.
The group plans to fundraise the money needed to create the park but Hodgson’s intent was to deposit the raised money into a town account and the town would oversee the construction of the park and own the park. The creation of the account was put before the Town Council at the .
Residents Speak About Dog Park
The dog park agenda item certainly drew a crowd with many in attendance to speak on behalf of the dog park and a couple speaking against it. However, before it was time for public comments, the Council had , pushing back the dog park discussion to about two hours into the meeting.
“We’re hoping for a yes vote because right now we’re on hold with our fundraising plan,” said Hodgson. "North Branford Unleashed also plans to continue fundraising after the park opens to off-set any other maintenance costs.”
He went on to add that the group plans to fundraise $20,000 to $25,000 to cover the startup costs and noted that regular maintenance such as making sure the park is cleaned up will be done by users and volunteers.
Resident Joe DeFrancesco stood to state his opposition to the park, saying he was “completely against it,” questioning who would monitor the park and the actual costs for upkeep.
Four other residents–including Carol Small, owner of –voiced their support with each speaker’s comments met by applause from those in attendance. Small addressed liability by telling the Council there is a Connecticut state statue that says dog owners are responsible for their dog’s actions.
Frank Bogano pointed out that the town lacks sidewalks and a dog park would give people a place to “let their dogs roam free without worry;” while Sue Diaz, who has only had a dog for two years, came up with reasons why non-dog owners would support the idea.
“I have a 14-year-old who plays sports and my husband was a coach. Every week, we’d arrive early and I’d show up with a plastic shovel and bag to clean up the fields because people take their dogs to these parks,” said Diaz. “It’s unsanitary for our kids to play in dog crap and the dog park would give dog owners a designated place to go.”
Some questioned how the town would make sure the park was only used by those in town and resident Stacie Dimaggio pointed out that all of the town’s parks are open to the public and the benefit of drawing those from other towns.
“This can increase our economics with more people coming in–they’ll eat in our restaurants and get gas at our gas stations,” she said. “I live next to 15 open acres where a lot of dogs run, but it’s not safe, it’s not sanitary. I want to bring my dog somewhere safe.”
Town Council Has Questions
While the agenda item for the meeting was to vote on creating an account for North Branford Unleashed’s funds raised, there were more questions from the Council before they decided to table the issue until the April 3 meeting.
explained that the area, located toward the back of the Swajchuk property, has some , some trees that would need to be removed and that some would stay to provide shade. Director Fran Merola said there would be little cost for groundcover as they were planning on using mulch, not grass.
At the next meeting, the Council wants to hear more accurate information including actual costs of clearing the property, an estimate for the 2,000 linear feet of six-foot chainlink fencing that would surround the park, how the disposal of the poop would work and what would happen should the group not raise enough for the dog park.
Town Attorney John Gesmonde said that there is not a “defined definition of what a dog park looks like and I’m not sure there’s any danger of people going there now as a dog park so over time, they can add amenities.” He went on to add that the situation does call for a legal document “for everyone to feel comfortable.”