West Hartford’s dog park had its official opening Saturday with a ribbon cutting.
By Ronni Newton
A celebration more than a decade in a making took place in West Hartford on Saturday, Nov. 5, as officials and representatives of the West Hartford Dog Park Coalition cut the ribbon, officially marking the opening of the town’s dog park at 100 Mayflower Street, behind the former St. Brigid School on property the town purchased in 2021.
“This has been a long, long road,” said David Coleman who is co-president of the West Hartford Dog Park Coalition along with his wife, Pamela Hershinson. “We’ve had ups, we’ve had downs, but we’re here and we’re really happy about that,” he said at the ribbon cutting, thanking all who never gave up in the quest to find a location for the dog park, including elected officials and town staff.
Mayor Shari Cantor, with the assistance of Junior Mayors for the Day Jane (9) and Tim (7) MacDonald, cut the ribbon to a round of cheers as well some howls and a bark or two. Town Councilor Ben Wenograd (assisted by his dog, Macy), and West Hartford Animal Control Officers Helen Lee and Kim Gulino were also on hand, along with members of the Dog Park Coalition, and at least 50 dogs and their owners.
“The dogs are really happy and if they could they would give us a big round of ‘a-paws,’” Coleman said.
Cantor said it’s been a struggle to find the right spot, but “this is a really beautiful facility and we’re hoping that many people experience it, understand how important a dog park is not only for dog socialization but for dog owner socialization as well.”
The park, which is roughly an acre, actually opened about two weeks before the ribbon cutting, and Coleman said he and his dog, Maya, immediately began taking advantage of the leash-free opportunity to socialize. “What I enjoy is talking to people from all different neighborhoods.”
Coleman said hay was spread over the area of the park near the gate when a few days of rain made it a bit muddy. “We will keep an eye on that,” he said.
Poop bags are available for those who forget to bring their own, and Public Works placed a trash barrel near the park where they can be discarded. The town will be responsible for emptying the trash at least twice a week, and mowing the lawn, but otherwise upkeep is the responsibility of the Dog Park Coalition’s volunteers.
“We have a ‘poop patrol,’ a dedicated group of volunteers to cover the park, looking for any dog poop that wasn’t picked up to dispose of it, as well as any other trash as well. This will be an ongoing effort to keep the park clean,” Coleman said.
Talk of a dog park as a desired amenity for West Hartford has been underway for well over a decade, and pooch plunges, held nearly every August after the town’s pools closed to human swimmers, have served as fundraisers for that hoped-for park. Multiple sites were considered over the years and eventually dismissed for a variety of reasons.
Coleman said this is a great location, a secluded setting with trees nearby, and also bordered by Beachland Park.
With shiny black chain link fencing installed by Green Mountain Fence Company (at a major discount to the Dog Park Coalition), a dual-gated entrance to control possible escapees, a separate area for smaller or shyer dogs, a picnic table donated by the Department of Public Works, and a bench donated by an anonymous resident, this dog park has much more of an air or permancy than the temporary dog park that was erected at Beachland Park from December 2019 until March 2020. But even if the location is ultimately permanent the dog park will likely have to close when construction on the new Elmwood community and cultural center begins at the 100 Mayflower Street site.
A feasibility study and community outreach related to the community and cultural center project, which will also include the Faxon Library branch are underway, but still in the early stages and architectural plans are not yet finalized. Coleman is hopeful the dog park will be in place for at least a year.
“In the meantime we’re there, we’re thrilled, and we’re enjoying it while we can and not worrying about the future,” Coleman said.
Animal Control officers will be regularly visiting the dog park to ensure that dogs have current rabies vaccinations and are properly licensed, and that’s something the Dog Park Coalition welcomes. It’s not necessary to be a West Hartford resident, but a valid dog license is required.
The West Hartford Dog Park is open from sunrise to sunset. There is parking next to the park, as well as in the front of the former St. Brigid School building.
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