Montville dog park moving forward

Montville — The proposed dog park cleared a pair of logistical hurdles Monday, with the Town Council backing local ordinance changes to ensure owners can let their pets roam unleashed within the confines of the park.

Councilors unanimously voted to exempt the developing dog park from two town ordinances: one that bars non-guide or non-service dogs from several town and privately-owned grounds, and another that bans unleashed pets from Camp Oakdale and other open spaces.

Council Chairman Tom McNally described the move as a "clerical cleanup for the dog park expected to open in the spring."

A labor of love for Oakdale resident Chris Lawton and a small group of volunteers, the approximately one-acre site near the Camp Oakdale tennis courts off Simpson Lane and Route 163 has seen progress in fits and starts over the last several years.

Lawton planted grass seed in the fall after Groton-based Luther Fence finished installing fencing for the park, which will have separate large and small dog areas.

Not long after the fences were up, a storm toppled a tree, damaging a portion of the fence that still needs repair, Lawton said.

Volunteers plan to pick up more debris in the park, landscape the area, build benches and a kiosk, and fill the entryway with mulch or crushed stone paving "so it doesn't turn to mud," Lawton said.

The Town Council backed plans for a dog park in 2014, and Lawton spearheaded the Dog Park Committee that helped raise more than $15,000 through raffles, craft fairs, donation drives and other fundraisers.

About $4,000 remains available for the dog park, Lawton said.

No taxpayer dollars have gone directly to the project, but town crews donated labor including the removal of large rocks and some trees.

Lawton pitched the idea for a dog park more than 10 years ago, after the death of his dog, Kacey.

Lawton says a core group of volunteers will form "Friends of Montville Dog Park" to help keep an eye on the park and plan fundraising events and activities, potentially including training and grooming sessions.

Dog Park Committee member Chris Lynch says he and his wife hope to team up with rescue shelters who could visit the park "to bring awareness to the community and explain the process." Dog groomers, sitters and other small businesses potentially could set up booths at the park during its grand opening and other events, Lynch said.

"We hope to give good exposure to the dog park and small businesses associated with the community," he said.

Lawton and Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mathieu Beaupre said officials will now review more than a dozen park rules that are under consideration.

The proposed rules, which will be posted at an on-site kiosk, require dogs to be collared, licensed, spayed or neutered and up to date on shots. Aggressive dogs, females in heat, dogs younger than 4 months old or sick, contagious dogs, will not be allowed.

Guardians must clean up after their dogs, both inside and outside the fenced area. All other town rules, including bans on alcohol and tobacco use, will apply to the park.

"It's not something that can be easily policed," Lynch acknowledged in reference to the rules. "But if you're a responsible dog owner, your dog is going to be sociable and up to date on shots. It's just good behaviors and good manners."

b.kail@theday.com

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