Bowser, our hypothetical puppy, is feeling his oats. He’s rambunctious, naughty, playful and friendly. He wants to run and romp, and chase down tennis balls, and believe they are prey. He wants to scamper, and saunter and sniff. He wants to do all this with uncontrolled (unleashed) abandon. His home doesn’t have much of a backyard, and a busy street is near his front door. Where can he go to act like a puppy?
Bowser also wants to meet other dogs and other people with dogs. He doesn’t want to be fearful, barky or aggressive when he nears a stranger. He wants to be a good dog all the time, and get an occasional cuddle from new friends. He wants to be social.
Bowser, therefore, needs a dog park to exercise and socialize. His family wants him to have a dog park, too because they know that a tired puppy is a wellbehaved puppy. Establishing a dog park, however, is a complicated process, and the cause needs a champion. Fortunately, Bowser’s friends in the Wallingford Dog Lovers Association have promoted the idea of a dog park to the Parks and Recreation Commission, which now supports the concept. That’s a big, first step.
The next step is to decide upon a location. Many in the dog lovers group wanted the dog park near Community Lake. But, with so much going on there, town officials thought that location could become too congested. Time and effort was taken to study Harrison Park, too. But officials became wary of parking problems at that location, also, because lots of folks use the ball fields and tennis courts there. Other sites have been mentioned, but each has disadvantages, foes, or obstacles, and would involve more delay.
The Parks and Recreation Commission, therefore, has encouraged consideration of centrally located, townowned property on abandoned Garden Road, which runs off Quinnipiac Street west of Bull Avenue. Although it is in a flood plain and could flood again as it did in 1992, and although Quinnipiac Street is plagued by periodic heavy traffic, the parcel has potential.
With 6.5 acres, it’s plenty big. The only other user is the Department of Public Works, which uses part of the property to store storm debris and dump snow. Although the director of public works has been reluctant to share that site with a dog park, the Garden Road location seems plausible to the Parks and Recreation Commission, nevertheless.
The town’s engineering department prepared a conceptual drawing of Garden Road showing two fenced in play areas for dogs and a parking lot for about 30 cars. One play area could be for larger dogs and another area for smaller dogs, like Bowser. Both comprise almost 1 1/2 acres, and Bowser would like the size of them. The drawing leaves space for public works operations, too. The dog lovers group recently voted to accept the Garden Road site, which means its effort can re-launch. It will try to cover the cost of the fencing by fundraising, which could start soon. The Parks and Recreation Commission could escalate the matter to the mayor for administrative determinations, including a final decision on whether the public works department and the dog park can co-exist on Garden Road.
The engineering department could work with the dog group to stake out a proposed perimeter, and the dog lovers group could submit ideas for a design. Neighbors could be contacted and their concerns addressed. Policies and rules need to be established of course, but that doesn’t take long. The town would finally install the park and the parking lot.
Bowser will be a mature dog when all this is complete, because Wallingford has its own special clock for moving forward. But the identification of Garden Road is an important step.
This week, Wallingford is a step closer to a dog park than it was last week. Bowser is pleased.
Mike Brodinsky is a former town councilor, chairman of the School Roof Building Committee and host of public access show “Citizen Mike.”