Extending fence could end Stonington dog park dispute

Stonington - The town plans to extend a fence at the unofficial dog park behind the borough sewer plant as a way to help resolve a dispute between pet owners and a neighboring homeowner.

Director of Public Works Barbara McKrell said Monday that the fence will not encircle the entire park but be extended a short distance farther along the rocks so dogs can not access the harbor and the small beach area below the property owned by Laura Ann Gabrysch and Frank Mastrapasqua. Currently, the dogs cross town property to climb down rocks to the water. She said the work will take place over the next few months. No cost estimate is yet available.

"We can minimize the opportunity for people and animals to leave our public space and enter state property and gain access to private property," she said about the additional fencing.

McKrell said the property line between the town and the home at 13 Front St. is the wooden fence on the Gabrysch/Mastrapasqua property. Between the wooden fence and the town fence is a grassy area that is also owned by the town and which some dogs used to access the water.

On July 20, the ongoing confrontation between dog park users and the pair escalated when police said Gabrysch displayed and turned on a stun device while ordering two children to get their dog off the tiny beach below her seawall.

Later that day, police were back at the park when a resident complained that Gabrysch and Mastrapasqua had placed a mixture of paprika and pet repellent on the rocks, sickening a dog. Police said they admitted to putting the mixture on the rocks. No arrests were made in either of the incidents, but police said they issued warnings. Police also said they informed Gabrysch that state law ensures public access to waters and beaches below the high water mark. The beach area is covered by water most of the day but they had placed a sign that reads: "No Trespassing - Violators Will Be Prosecuted" in the shallow water.

Town and borough officials toured the park last week to discuss possible solutions. The decision to add the fencing was made after that. Borough Warden Jeff Callahan said Monday that one other idea also discussed at the meeting was to post a set of park regulations.

Police Chief J. Darren Stewart said Monday that a heavy duty bicycle lock that had been placed on the gate of the town fence has now been removed.

First Selectman Ed Haberek did not respond to a request for comment about the plan Monday.

Last week he posted a comment on the Stonington Community Forum Facebook page that said, "Just to clarify, the small extension of the fence is idea of DPW Director in the meeting with Police Chief, Warden & Town Engineer. The purpose to protect town liability from private property owners. It won't impede view or boundaries." Other posters on the page were critical of the decision to extend the fence.



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