The West Hartford Dog Park Coalition has issued a survey to determine if there is still broad interest in the community for a dog park.
By Ronni Newton
There are thousands of dogs in West Hartford, but other than a series of pop-ups and a temporary dog park that was in place during the winter of 2019 into early 2020, pooches have not had a dedicated outdoor space where they can frolic together off leash.
A dog park has been talked about as a desired amenity for West Hartford for more than 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.
“We had momentum, but then with the pandemic nothing happened,” said David Coleman, who is currently serving as a co-chair of the West Hartford Dog Park Coalition.
The temporary dog park at Beachland Park was scheduled to close in March 2020 anyway – and that happened just as the COVID-19 pandemic was shutting down all types of social activities.
Coleman, together with Pam Hershinson, has now created a brief survey to gauge interest among members of the community in having a dog park – and he is hopeful there will be resounding support to reignite efforts.
Coleman is also energized by the town’s possible purchase of the former St. Brigid School property on Mayflower Street, which backs up to Beachland Park.
“There’s a perfect spot,” he said, with a large green space that isn’t too close to residences. The town is in the midst of a 90-day due diligence period, which is due to conclude in late June.
“All other potential sites have gotten bogged down or haven’t gone anywhere,” Coleman said. “It’s been over a decade, and we really want a dog park.”
Previously identified sites include Fernridge Park, land adjacent to the Home Depot parking lot, MDC Reservoir, and Trout Brook Drive near Whole Foods.
After years of frustration and failure, the town worked with the WHDPC to develop site selection criteria.
To meet the criteria, a site had to avoid directly abutting residences. It could not interfere with established programs, affect sensitive environmental habitats, or be in close proximity to playgrounds. There also needed to be ample parking and minimal visual impact.
Six years ago there was excitement among dog owners when a piece of land owned by the town, adjacent to Cornerstone Pool on a small slice of Buena Vista Golf Course, appeared to be an ideal dog park location. The idea was considered over the course of several months, but the Buena Vista Property Owners Association voiced strong objections, and hundreds of people signed petitions both against and in favor of the site.
In May 2015, roughly eight months after the site was publicly identified, the town decided it would not support the WHDPC’s application for the Buena Vista site.
The WHDPC used some of the funds raised over the years to support the temporary dog park at Beachland Park. The biggest problem with that site, however, was that it was only open during the winter months and it got very muddy.
Coleman said he is hoping to have a space more like what exists in Simsbury, with benches and shade – and wood chips on the ground to avoid it becoming a mud pit.
“We’re tired of temporary,” he said.
Coleman and others from the WHDPC will be meeting with town officials soon, and hope to have another conversation after the survey is completed. From the responses received thus far, he said, “It looks like overwhelming support.”
There are more than 50 dog parks in Connecticut, Coleman said, and nationwide more than 1,000 free parks exist for dogs to play off leash. Dog parks have inner and outer gates to avoid escapes, and many have separate areas for smaller dogs.
To access the West Hartford Dog Park Coalition’s survey and express your opinion about a dog park, click here.
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