By Tamara Sevigny
Becoming more and more popular are dog parks that allow unleashed supervised dogs out to play. A group of residents in Wethersfield has asked the town to set aside a spacious area in Mill Woods Park for just that. The park will be complete with picnic benches, fences and other amenities to encourage socialization and exercise.
The council, which will make the final decision, heard the request in early October and referred the matter to planning and zoning for additional review. The town’s planning and zoning commission is now reviewing the request.
The residents who gathered together say their inspiration came from the dog park in Hamden. They suggested that land on the west side of Mill Woods Park be used for the facility. The area would need to be cleared of brush and small trees and then fenced. Picnic tables would allow dog owners to sit and socialize as well. The supporters are putting a lot of time and effort into planning the park and also plan to raise the estimated $30,000 needed to pay for it.
Those who live in apartments, elderly or handicapped can’t walk their dogs and would now be able to bring them to the park for much needed exercise. In addition, high-energy dogs that need more then just a daily “walk” would benefit as well.
Dog parks are popular in most other parts of the country, but there is just a handful in the state of Connecticut. According to supporters, Hamden’s dog park is the closest in the area. Several other cities, such as West Hartford and New Britain have considered establishing dog parks, but ended up scrapping plans after aesthetics, cost and safety concerns were raised.
According to organizers the dog park would have very specific rules to ensure safety and cleanliness. Dogs would be required to have proper registration and proper shots in order to use the dog park area. No puppies, aggressive dogs or females in heat would be allowed. While dogs could run free inside the fenced-in area, owners would still be required to have a leash with them for entering and leaving the fenced area. Owners would be responsible to clean up after their dogs and would be legally responsible for any damage to property or any bodily injury their dog might cause.
Some concerns have been raised about the dog park and include the possibility of E. coli bacteria developing if owners do not clean up after their dogs and the possibility of dog fights as well as injuries to people.
Mayor Russ Morin said that more information on the park would be required before any final decisions are made, but he said it could be a nice addition to Mill Woods. “I don’t have a dog, but my understanding is that people in towns where these are located are very respectful and do clean up,” he said. Morin said he would not expect any action until after the November 8 municipal elections.