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Letter: Milford's Response to Dog Park Debate

This letter was submitted by Paul Piscitelli, Director of Recreation, Milford Recreation Department.

 

The following Letter to the Editor from is in response to ""

Milford’s recreational facilities (parks, beaches, playgrounds, trails, etc.) provide a safe and enjoyable environment for all our residents & visitors to pursue their diverse recreational interests. 

Dogs in public parks are an issue that both sides of the argument are very passionate about. ’s goal is to recognize and balance the needs of both the dog owners and non dog owners in a manner that allows everyone to enjoy their interests while ensuring their safety.

The “leash law”, bans in certain areas, and the “pooper scooper law” have been established for the safety of the public, the dog, and the dog handler.  However, it takes compliance and enforcement these of ordinances to be effective. 

Just as important and what appears to be overlooked in this issue; is that our facilities, especially , are public parks that exist for everyone to enjoy.  Unfortunately, special interest groups have attempted to claim the park as their own and do not respect the recreational pursuits of others.

Eisenhower Park should be the jewel in our park system supporting diverse activities that appeal to all generations. Its abundant acreage with thoughtful, responsible development is able to support both passive and active recreation to meet the recreational needs of today and the future.  All users, regardless of their interest, should work together to advocate for the proper improvements, including a modern dog park.

The Recreation Department encourages all residents to get out and enjoy our parks; to provide us with feedback; and to comply with all ordinances and regulations.

Below are the City Ordinances relating to this topic:

Prohibited Activities on Public Recreational Areas - City Ordinance 16-2(3)

Bring any animal into any athletic facility or play area. Bring any animal into any beach or park area, with the following exceptions:

a. Dogs on leashes not over 10 feet long will be permitted in Eisenhower Park except the model airplane field during operations hours, the gardens, soccer field, tennis court area and playing fields. The area where leashed dogs are permitted is as marked on the Eisenhower Park map on file at the City Clerk's office and is designated by signage at the park.

b. Dogs off leashes are permitted in the dog run at Eisenhower Park but must be brought to the run leashed and remain leashed at all other times. 

Removal Of  Animal Waste (Pooper Scooper) - City Ordinance 9-9

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person owning, keeping, walking or in control of any dog to allow or permit such animal to defecate upon any private property, owned by another person, or condominium common elements or public property, including but not limited to public beaches, parks and school grounds, unless such person shall remove all feces so deposited by such animal and dispose of same in a proper manner before leaving the immediate premises.

(b) The provisions of this section shall not apply to a guide dog accompanying any blind person.

Sharon May 09, 2012 at 11:34 AM
Updating the dog park may assist with some of the issues. It truly is not a "dog park". It is a fenced in muddy/dirt area.
Mark Lofthouse May 09, 2012 at 12:38 PM
Thank you Paul for a great letter that spells out the responsibilities of all citizens to our public lands. I truely believe that we are at the point where permits are required for dogs in the park. Over time, fees collected can go towards an improved off-leash area, maintaining doggie bags, and the like. Permitting would also require dog owners to show proofs that a dog is up to date on their shots, which is a public safety issue. Permits would mean that any dog owner not following the rules can have their permit revoked for the good of all concerned. It would also be nice to see the dog owners organize an Eisenhwoer Park Kennel Club and help tackle issues such as a better dog run area by volunteering their time to fund raise and build the facility they need. The perfect spot for a new and much larger area would be next to Foote Field, which is where the Eisenhower Park Committee suggested.
Gary Teto May 09, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Perhaps those in charge should visit Shelton Gog Park or the Trumbull Dog Park where the Town provided the space and the dog owners maintain the park at their expense. Provided to the dog's because it is THEIR park, are benches. seats. pooper bags and sanitary places to put them in the park and pick-up service. Two or three fund raisers a year and you are covered. NO cost to the City.
Susan Finney May 09, 2012 at 01:13 PM
I am glad that this issue is getting some attention! We use the dog park, and it is a mess!! The city doesn't come to mow it on a regular schedule, there is no running water for the dogs, no outhouse should we need to use the bathroom if your there for a few hours. Even if the city placed a porta-potty, that would be great. Ther are no listed rules for owners to follow either. The regulars that use the partk are willing to help maintain it, if they can have someone from parks and rec. to work with. The regulars that go have been discussing this issue everytime I'm there, and are willing to work to better the park. I am also suprised that in a city with as many people as we have that have dogs, that there isn't anyother dog run on the other end of town, someplace around woodmont. Thanks for getting the issue out there, Susan Finney
Rockergirl1960 May 09, 2012 at 01:41 PM
I think there should be more dog parks.
Rockergirl1960 May 09, 2012 at 01:41 PM
I agree,
Steve Johnson May 09, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Paul, thank you for addressing the responsibilities people have when they bring their dogs to Eisenhower and all of the city parks and beaches. The safety, maintenance and enjoyment of all of our public places depend on people following the city ordinances that are already in place. This can be an opportunity for ideas on how to create a more welcoming “off-leash” dog area for both the dogs and the owners to enjoy.
Linda Creedon May 09, 2012 at 06:32 PM
I agree with all the above comments. Parks should be enjoyed by everyone but we need to be conscious of our responsibilities for cleaning up after our pets. We have three dogs and a very large fenced in yard. Perfect for them but I would love to be able to walk through Eisenhower Park with them as there are no sidewalks in our area, but a lot of traffic. Dispensers with clean up bags strategically placed will help along with an occasional patrol on a bike to ensure we are adhering to our responsibilities. Let's clean up the park so everyone can use it! Linda C.
Deb Rose May 10, 2012 at 07:06 PM
I find the suggestion that dog owners have to have a permit to use Eisenhower Park ludicrous and discriminatory!! As things stand, with all the parks/beaches in Milford, dogs are only allowed in ONE park and only in restricted portions of that park, on leash only, except for the muddy, shabby, unkempt fenced area laughingly called a "dog park"! Right now, all Milford provides is the fence, which has been there for at least 15 years. The area is maintained by the dog owners that use it, not by the City. You suggest that "over time" the fees would go for an improved off leash area and supplies such as doggie bags. So your plan is that dog owners would pay just to walk their dogs on leash in the restricted areas and continue to maintain the current "dog park", such as it is, until there are sufficient funds to do anything to provide a proper dog park that the City maintains?? Who exactly do you think would be willing to do that? Furthermore, what about the other specialized activity areas? Are you also proposing that anyone who wants to use the sports fields, tennis courts, gardens, model airplane areas, etc. have to have permits as well to pay for their maintenance? If not, then requiring permits for dog owners would be discriminatory. Since the City does maintain those other areas and doesn't maintain the dog run, they should have to pay a fee and not the dog owners. Milford isn't dog-friendly now, such a policy would make it downright dog-hostile!
Deb Rose May 10, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Currently, all that Milford provides is the space and the fence, which was installed many, many years ago. The owners do whatever maintenance is done. So, right now, the owners provide everything but the space and maintain the "park"! Do you also consider the playing fields, tennis courts,gardens, model airplane area, etc. as belonging to the users of those areas? Should the tennis players provide their own nets? Should those using the fields be responsible for mowing the fields? Should there be no cost to the City for those activities? That would certainly cut the Eisenhower Park budget. Or how about the amount spent on maintaining the other areas be put into the dog run to make it into an actual dog park and not a mud-hole? I don't see why my specialized area of the park is any less important or deserving of being supported by the City than the other specialized areas such as the playing fields.
Mark Lofthouse May 14, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Dear Deb, The tone of my e-mail is not one of "anger", but rather to try and get some sense of order with dogs in the park. With funds being limited and your view that our dog park is shabby (I agree), raising funds by permits is a small way to help provide fund that could go towards a better dog park. As for other activities in the park, I believe tennis requires a permit, softball requires teams to pay a registration fee, the model airplane people have a opermit for specific hours they can use the air field, the Gardeners pay a small fee to garden........and so one. Whjy do you think dog owners are imune to sharing their park of the financial burden of using Eisenhower Park? A nominal fee with proof that your dog is all its shots is not asking all that much. Your protest to this idea seems rather misguided. I support user fees....you don't.....sorry we disagree.
Deb Rose May 14, 2012 at 11:46 PM
My response stems from the fact that Milford is essentially VERY dog-unfriendly. Of the 8 parks & 5 Milford public beaches, dogs are relegated to portions of ONE park, and then only on leash, except for a small, shabby fenced area. Milford also has tennis courts at 6 different places, with several courts at each; 24 ballparks, 24 playgrounds, and a skate park to name a few of the recreational areas all equipped and maintained by Milford taxpayers. A pass is required to reserve a court but is FREE! Permits are also required for the ballfields, but no fee is listed for them either. Finally, there's NO permit for parents of the children to use any of the 24 playgrounds, nor did they pay to equip them or do they maintain them. Bodie's Place is gorgeous! I am quite certain the cost to equip/maintain it is quite high. Yet, my taxes pay for that as they pay for equipping/maintaining the other parks, beaches, & areas where my dog isn't allowed! That is why I balk at your suggestion that if I want even ONE decent place for my dog to play, I should pay to upgrade/equip the space and then maintain the ONLY public spot in all of Milford I can let my dog play off leash??? Yes, I DO think that is asking too much!! When people pay extra for use of the playgrounds, skate park, tennis courts, etc. and when the dog pen is actually equipped/maintained to the same level as Bodie's Place, then & only then do I think charging pet owners a permit fee would be a fair solution.
Deb Rose May 15, 2012 at 12:11 AM
My sister lives in FL and takes her dog for a walk every day. There are 2 parks near her, both of which allow dogs on leash. These parks are very close together but in two different towns. One has dispensers with baggies and receptacles all along the trails. The other has nothing. Guess which one is clean and which one is covered in dog poop? If you make it easy for people to comply with reasonable rules the majority of people will comply. I also think if there were properly equipped/maintained places, where people could legally allow their dogs off leash, the majority of people would use them and not let their dogs off leash in other places.
Anne Weizel May 15, 2012 at 01:35 AM
I was surprised how angry the tone of some of the letters are regarding dogowners at beaches and parks. I have been walking my dogs for eight years , and usually experience much friendliness from people just about everywhere I go in Milford, both from dog owners and non-dogowners. People stop me everywhere, and ask if they or their kids can pet my dogs. Just from observation, it seems like a huge percentage of Milford residents are dog owners, particularily in the beach areas. I would be curious to know how many residents actually are dog owners.
Deb Rose May 15, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Since you have to license your dog, the town clerk could provide a minimum number of dogs. While there may be some owners who don't license, the majority do, so the number of licenses should be a good estimate. BTW, I don't think most of the people of Milford are anti-dogs, but the laws certainly aren't dog-friendly. I abide by all the laws, which means that my dog only goes off leash at the dog pen. When I lived in West Haven, I took my dog for long walks on the beach, nearly every day. It was great exercise for both of us. Good for body & soul. Milford has great parks, beaches, & recreational facilities, too bad those of us with dogs can't take advantage of most of them.
Sue DiMaio May 29, 2012 at 05:59 PM
I think that people should stop complaining about the state of the dog park and be pro-active about it! I myself love it. It can get muddy sometimes, but any area of the park can, especially one where there is minimal grass due to wear and tear, such as the most-used areas of the dog park. What people seem to overlook is that it is fenced in, has a proper two-gate entry, has a tree for shade (although shade is minimal), garbage cans, bags, bowls, benches, toys and seats (most of which are donated by caring pet parents, but very usable and no different than city-provided amenities) The only things I can see improving would be more space (although it is a nice sized area already), running water, and a rest room. I think running water in particular would make the park a nicer place, and much safer on those hot summer days! Also, I think a great place for another dog park would be that unused meadowy area across from the new boardwalk on walnut beach. Since a lot of people frown upon dogs on the beach or the boardwalk, why not fence in that grassy area and call it a dog park? It would be lovely!
Dee July 16, 2012 at 05:30 PM
I have just recently visited the dog park with my new rescue. He LOVED the area to run with "The Big Dogs" and wander a bit. It was grassy, although it needed to be cut. It did have water, bowls, and toys that people left. We also brought our own. The part I was disappointed about was the general upkeep...some of which should be the owners responsibility. There were many "piles" that were not picked up. When I bring my dog anywhere, I always have bags with me...never a question. There were also many holes that were dangerous to kids or owners playing. The plastic chairs were strewn about, perhaps at one point to cover the holes. With that being said, the area was fairly large...at least compared to my yard. I was happy that the other owners were friendly and didn't get upset when my little dog got "overly friendly" with their dogs. The dogs got along and loved running after each other. I did think more shade would be great, but it wasn't bad. On the flipside, I recently visited a dog park in Cape Cod, MA. What a joke! It was a fenced area about the size of a eight car parking lot...and complete sandy dirt. No grass, not plants, no water, bowls, bags, toys, etc. It was surrounded by trees and brush and attached to walking trails and a pond, which may have been an area where dogs were allowed as well. My dog isn't trained for off-leash yet, so I was sticking to the fenced area...and that only lasted a short time with my white dog!!!
Dee July 16, 2012 at 05:31 PM
(Continued) Ultimately, perhaps there is an arrangement that can be made between "field maintenance" and dog park users for the upkeep of the park. There are certainly fund raisers for everything...why not this? Having a photographer come to take photos of dogs for their owners was one idea that was just on the news. There are days when churches have "Blessings of Animals" which could be available at the park, with table of homemade dog treats and toys for sale. Isn't there an annual dog walk in Milford? I know this article was a response for dogs to be allowed in more parks, but unfortunately some owners are not responsible with their dogs in public. This makes the public skeptical of opening up more areas. There are dog attacks everyday, and many people have a real fear. It seems like we need to help the two groups come together, and put pressure on the owners who ruin it for everyone.
Andy Charland October 01, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Hello Mark I am a member of the Devon Revitalization Committee. Another member suggested that a dog park be made at Edgemont Park. There is a sign posted there pertaining to the City Odinance ART 1 Sect. 16-2. I see that you are still involved with Eisenhower Park. Keep up the good work. Andy Charland andyc1@aol.com
Concerned Parent November 25, 2012 at 10:46 PM
IMO, it's not the role of the town to make accommodations for pets. That is the owner's responsibility. If all pet owners were responsible perhaps this would not be an issue.
liz August 30, 2013 at 03:22 PM
The proposal to put a Dog Park in Edgemont Park, Devon, is another example of politicans looking to spend taxpayers money, to pat themselves on the back. Edgemont Park is one of the most dangerous spots in Milford, it is infested with mosquitos, and all types of flies. Anyone who lives in Devon or knows anything about it, would never sit down there, or bring their dogs. With West Nile Virus on the Stratford side of the river, what are the chances that this breeding ground is not already infected. The neighbors should be up in arms. $80,000. of your tax dollars.

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