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TPZ to Vote on Temporary Site for West Hartford Dog Park

A section of Beachland Park, in the northeast corner down a path past the soccer field, may be the site of a temporary dog park. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The West Hartford Dog Park Coalition is seeking approval from the Town Plan and Zoning Commission to use a corner of Beachland Park for a dog park.

Proposed site for temporary dog park. Town of West Hartford website

By Ronni Newton

West Hartford dogs may soon have their own park in which to frolic off-leash – at least during the winter months – pending a decision by the Town Plan and Zoning Commission after a public hearing Nov. 6.

The temporary dog park – which would be open from roughly Dec. 15, 2019 through March 15, 202o – would be located at the far northeastern edge of Beachland Park, along Trout Brook in an area largely hidden from view, past the soccer field, and far from the playground at the top of the hill.

Overview of the Beachland Park, where the West Hartford Dog Park Coalition temporary park is proposed for the area noted in red. Town of West Hartford website

Phil Karlin, chair of the West Hartford Dog Park Coalition (WHDPC), said he is excited and optimistic that the plan will be approved.

After numerous proposed locations for a dog park have been proposed and dismissed for a variety of reasons, the town continues to work with the WHDPC on a permanent site, Karlin said, but that could still be a long way off.

“In the meantime, we’ve been doing 10 years of pooch plunges and we have some money in the bank,” Karlin said. The funds will be used to rent fencing for the temporary dog park, and cover any other associated costs.

The Beachland Park site is not intended to be a permanent dog park, however, but is an ideal space during the winter months when the park is not otherwise very busy. And, said Karlin, it’s a spot that people often bring their dogs to play already.

In general, the town has been opposed to using existing parks due to conflicts with sports, limited parking, and increased traffic. None of those problems exist in the winter, Karlin said.

“In the winter it’s low utilization of the parks and we know from doing the pop-ups that people will go,” said Karlin.

The site will be about 0.5 to 0.75 acres, will have a double-gate entry, a 6-foot fence, and at least one trash barrel for disposal of dog waste, Karlin said.

The cost of renting the fence (which includes the installation and removal in March) is several thousand dollars, but that will all be paid by the WHDPC and other than perhaps emptying the trash barrel and doing some over-seeding of the grass in the spring, there will not be any additional costs incurred by the town.

The application for the temporary dog park was filed by Leisure Services Manager Marc Blanchard, because it’s town-owned property, but he confirmed that would be essentially no impact to the town. The fencing will be removed “before the park needs to get set up for spring activities,” he said.

Rules that will be posted at the temporary dog park. Town of West Hartford website

In 2016-17, the WHDPC held a series of pop-up dog parks on the ballfields of various town parks, and they were very successful from an attendance standpoint, but Blanchard said there was concern about damaging the fields. The upper part of Beachland was used for a pop-up dog park in February 2018, he said, but there weren’t any pop-ups last winter.

As part of outreach efforts associated with the application, a mailing was sent to 35 abutting properties, and a meeting was held. No one attended, Karlin said. One email and one phone call were received, both in support of the dog park, he said.

The temporary dog park “would allow for maximum use out of our parks in town,” Blanchard said. There are about 50 parking spaces available at Beachland, and it’s far enough away from the playground so that should not be a concern for families, he said.

If approved, the dog park will be open from dawn to dusk. It will not be manned, but there will be a sign indicating the rules – which are expected to be followed based on the honor system.

“This is something we can do in the meantime” while hoping that eventually a suitable site for a permanent dog park can be arranged, said Karlin.

“We really wanted to do something for the dogs of West Hartford,” Karlin said.

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