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About two dozen dogs and their owners walk across Route 5 to Center Street Saturday morning. Supporteres of a dog park in Wallingford gathered Saturday for a parade up Center Street to help raise awareness for a fundraising effort that just kicked off. | Andrew Ragali/ Record-Journal

Wallingford dogs and owners march in support of dog park

WALLINGFORD — It’s been a few years since Bob Tumiski rescued his dog Layla from a shelter, but she still has anxiety.

“I’m trying to socialize her,” he said. “I like the idea of a dog park. I like the control.”

While he can walk Layla in his yard, she has no regular interaction with other dogs. A dog park could be the answer, he said. Many view a park as a place for their dogs to exercise and socialize.

“I think Wallingford definitely needs a park,” said Tumiski, a town resident.

Not everyone has a large enough yard to let a dog roam, said Hank Nalewajek, a member for the Wallingford Dog Lovers Association, which is behind the effort to establish a park.

“We need an area that’s safe for dogs,” he said.

The association recently received town approval to build a dog park on Quinnipiac Street. It will be created on a one-acre parcel with an existing town-owned parking lot near the Quinnipiac River. Some initial clearing is done, but completion of the park depends on how quickly the association can raise money.

Mark Semrau, the association’s founder, estimated that about $35,000 is needed. With the association waiting to hear from the Internal Revenue Service about its nonprofit status, fundraising has yet to really begin, Semrau said.

Dog park supporters aimed to raise awareness Saturday morning during a “Bark for the Park” parade up Center Street. About two dozen dogs and their owners strolled from the Fishbein Park gazebo on Route 5 up Center Street to North Main Street. Many held signs asking motorists to honk if they supported the park. After reaching North Main Street, the parade spread out to each corner at the intersection of North Main Street and Center Street. Curious motorists slowed to inspect the commotion, many honking as they passed.

Asked why he attended the parade Saturday, local resident Greg Smith said, “Because a lot of other towns have these parks.”

Smith said he first became aware of the campaign to build the park about nine months ago through social media. On Saturday, he walked up Center Street with a “Bark for the Park” sign.

The turnout Saturday was better than expected, Semrau said. “Mother Nature was good to us.”

As the association worked to find a location over the past year, “It was a little bit of a bumpy road,” he said, “but we’re making serious progress now.”

There was always optimism, Nalewajek said. After noticing that many other towns in Connecticut were successful in building dog parks with similar community-funded efforts, “We just stuck with it,” he said.

With Semrau Saturday were his dogs Maya and Clancy. It was Clancy who first motivated Semrau to pursue a park. After visiting a dog park in another town and seeing how much Clancy enjoyed it, Semrau decided to seriously look into a park in Wallingford. To date, Semrau said, he has been to 26 dog parks. They are a social and fun place to meet responsible dog owners, he said.

aragali@record-journal.com (203) 317-2224 Twitter: @Andyragz



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