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TPZ Approves Plans for West Hartford Dog Park to Open

The grassy area behind the former St. Brigid School at 100 Mayflower Street will become a temporary dog park. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

The West Hartford Dog Park Coalition has received approval for a dog park to open on the grassy area in the rear of 100 Mayflower Street.

By Ronni Newton

The Town Plan and Zoning Commission (TPZ) granted a Special Use Permit to the West Hartford Dog Park Coalition (WHDPC) Wednesday night, and by the end of this month, dogs will have a space in West Hartford where they can play off leash.

The dog park will be located in a grassy area at 100 Mayflower Street, the former St. Brigid School property which the town purchased last fall, – and while the park is is temporary it’s for a year, which is significantly longer than the previous temporary dog park at Beachland Park which was open for roughly three months from December 2019 until March 2020.

The park will be roughly an acre, with a separate area for smaller dogs, and will have double-gated entrance and exit to avoid dog escapes. Rules will be posted on site.

There were a few conditions added to the Special Use Permit by TPZ, but WHDPC Co-President David Coleman said they are relatively minor, and involve a commitment to repair any damage to the fence, to provide a report on trash removal, and to provide a look-back after nine months.

“The dog park is definitely happening,” Coleman said. “We’re thrilled. We’re finally in the win column.”

The town is beginning the process of developing a plans to construct a new Elmwood Community Center and Cultural Center on the Mayflower Street site, and once the construction begins the dog park will need to close. Coleman hopes that post-construction, it will be able to return, but is happy to at least have it for the enjoyment of the town’s pups for the next year.

Coleman was already in touch with suppliers for fencing on Thursday, so the dog park can get up and running as quickly as possible. “We’re hoping this month, ideally in the next two or three weeks,” he said, but there are some supply chain issues that may slow the process. He said he didn’t want to sign any contracts until the park was approved.

“The main thing is to get it open,” Coleman said.

The WHDPC will be footing the bill for the fencing and installation, and Coleman said they have enough funds to do it, but “barely enough.” The annual Pooch Plunge, held the last week of August at Beachland Park, brought in donations to help pay for the park, and the nonprofit has also applied for grants that are in the works, he said.

West Hartford Dog Park Coalition Pooch Plunge. Aug. 24, 2022. Photo credit: Baylee Krulewitz (we-ha.com file photo)

Coleman was thrilled with the results of the TPZ meeting, and the outpouring of support at the meeting in Council Chambers at Town Hall.

“The hearing room was filled to capacity with dog park supporters,” he said, and 10 had the opportunity to speak including the president of the Canton dog park who provided TPZ with insight into its operation. While several letters in opposition to the park had been submitted to TPZ via email, no one spoke against it at the meeting, and the permit was approved unanimously.

“I thanked the town manager for his guidance, and the Town Council members for their support,” Coleman said.

A dog park has been talked about as a desired amenity for West Hartford 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 a future park. Multiple sites have been considered and eventually dismissed for a variety of reasons.

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