Dog Park Temporarily on Hold

The North Branford Town Council wants some questions answered before it approves the next step for the proposed dog park.

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.”

David S March 23, 2012 at 12:11 PM
I am a dog owner and I do not support the dog park. Our town is a rural community with ample safe open space for dogs and their owners to walk. If dog owners walk their dogs responsibly there should be no need for a fenced in 'park'. Inevitably, a dog park will cost the town money and increase our taxes or it will likely become an eye sore that the town has to pay to remove when the fan fare wears off and it becomes neglected by it's promoters. And no, I really don't think droves of dog owners from other towns are going to flock to NB spending oodles of money, propping up our economy, on their way to and fro the dog park.
Eric Hodgson March 23, 2012 at 03:16 PM
A dog park is first and foremost a park...a place for people to come together and have recreation. It is as much for people as it is for dogs. Also, the park will be a Town Park. If things are not going in the right direction, the Town will have the ability to close it down. In terms of equitable use of our tax money, currently, the town is spending 800 thousand dollars (some which is subsidized by the State) to move a baseball field to a location on the Swajchuk property. Even as a person who has no interest in baseball and who does not have kids, I can see the value of my taxes going towards creating this new area because it will ultimately improve the Town. Many towns in our area are creating dog parks because it's something that people value. Reasonable people can disagree about priorities of the Town, but that's not a reason to stop forward progress.
Daniel Armin March 23, 2012 at 06:13 PM
People in our wonderful town and society should thinkin less narcissistic terms. Just because a project or proposal doesn't help one directly does not necessarily mean it is not good for the community as a whole. North Branford has no sidewalks as I know of, and therefore no safe place for one to exercise on a bike or walk a dog. Our neighboring towns have both sidewalks and dog parks. I would welcome a place for people to enjoy each other and their dogs to do the same. It can be good for business too, as people can then grab lunch or visit another business in town. We need to encourage people to enjoy our town and improve what it has to offer.
Jack March 25, 2012 at 06:38 PM
I am also a dog owner and agree with Mr. Sargent. I moved here many years ago because of the rural character of the town. We have plenty of open space to walk walk our dogs. In this economy when the town and its residents are all making budget cuts to make ends meet, it is not fair to burden the taxpayers with this additional cost at this time. Dog ownership is not a right, it is a privilege and the responsibility of the owner and not the town. ps. Daniel In most towns there are laws against riding your bike on the sidewalk, not sure what that comment you made had to do with the Dog Park. :) ,
Daniel Armin March 25, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Agreed about the bike comment.
Sue Diaz March 28, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Can someone please point me in the direction of the open space available for dog walking. Open space has been mentioned on a number of occations but the only spaces I know of are the athetic fields. Any direction would be appreciated. I live on White Hollow Rd and feel like "Frogger" when walking...cars speed by and don't even tap the brakes when they see you. I would love a safe (legal) place to take my dog.
Eric Hodgson March 30, 2012 at 12:32 AM
Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Heidi. We are proposing to fundraise for the initial cost of the park and will continue to fundraise and coordinate volunteers to defray upkeep costs.
LORI VOGT May 17, 2012 at 08:40 PM
I live on a 1/3 mile long private drive, which is where I walk my dogs regularly, and every so often take my pooper scooper with me to clean up after my own and anyone else's dog that happens to use the facilities. However, we very much enjoy going to Branford's dog park in Short Beach at my old Short Beach School site. My dogs have favorite companions there and I love meeting new people. It is indeed a social atmosphere for the owners as well as the dogs. Everyone cleans up after the dogs, even if they're not sure who's dog did the dirty deed. I only wish there was a small dog section, but even without it it's still worth going to. I can't wait until we have our own park.
rick p June 24, 2012 at 10:46 AM
i think a dog park in NB is a great idea.... We adopted a rescue puppy after our last one passed away... he travelled with us all along the east coast to Florida running and meeting friends in several dog parks... the people and the parks were great! a dog park adds a unique dimension to the character of a town and truly contributes to town spirit...i believe its an added value to a potential resident... it great for the dogs and often beneficial to all residents.....


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