Montville unleashes dog park on Sept. 8
Montville — Chris Lawton, who several years ago envisioned a dog park for the town, says the grass in a one-acre site near Camp Oakdale is ready for some new traffic.
After several years of planning, fundraising and with support from volunteers and town officials, the park inspired by Lawton's dog Kacey, who died about 10 years ago, will open at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
"It's the best thing I could ever see — people enjoying it with their dogs," said Lawton, of Oakdale.
Originally shooting for a June opening, volunteers and the Dog Park Committee faced a host of logistical, organizational and weather-driven mishaps after the Town Council backed plans for a dog park a few years ago. But over the past year, Lawton and volunteers planted and reseeded grass, removed rocks and debris leftover during construction, and repaired fencing toppled by a tree during a storm to ready the park for opening.
The year-round park, which has large and small dog sections, is near the Camp Oakdale tennis courts off Simpson Lane and Route 163.
Lawton and Chris Lynch — who along with his wife Meggan volunteered significant time to push the project along — said they felt relieved the effort was complete. They praised a host of volunteers, town officials, the Parks and Recreation Commission and Public Works crews for their support. Girl Scouts, Boy Scout Troop 93, Cub Scout Pack 67, Montville Leo Club, Montville Hardware, Montville Rotary Club, the Mohegan Tribe and several residents pitched in to help.
"It's been a big effort over the last couple years to get this done," Lynch said. "It's been a lot of little bumps along the way."
The Dog Park Committee spearheaded by Lawton helped raise more than $15,000 through raffles, craft fairs and donation drives. Lawton said about $2,000 remains available for the dog park, which will help cover road signs in the future.
No taxpayer dollars have directly gone to the project, but town crews donated labor including the removal of large rocks and some trees.
"When the Town Council was approached, they told (Lawton) he would have to do the heavy lifting and he did with all the fundraisers," Mayor Ron McDaniel said. "With assistance from Parks and Recreation and Public Works, as well as in-kind contributions, he organized the volunteer effort to make this park a reality."
Town Council member Jeff Rogers said volunteers were "up against a lot of resistance in the beginning."
"Through their persistence and perseverance, they're the ones who got this done," Rogers said. "They've done a phenomenal job."
Parks and Recreation Director Peter Bushway credited Lawton for "gathering the troops and doing the homework."
Bushway said the park is perfect for letting dogs off their leash to play and socialize. It also helps dog owners who have houses with small backyards or who live in apartments, Bushway said.
"It gives the public a space other than our athletic fields," Bushway added. "It is a health issue when dogs go to the bathroom on the fields or spectator areas."
Lawton and Lynch say a core group of volunteers will establish "Friends of Montville Dog Park" to help keep an eye on the park and plan fundraising events and activities, potentially including training, grooming and adopting sessions.
According to rules that will be posted on a kiosk this week, town officials will not monitor or supervise park activities, and dog owners are "solely liable for damages or injuries caused by their dogs." Town police may be authorized to enforce the rules, which include more than a dozen guidelines geared toward safety.
Aggressive dogs, females in heat, dogs younger than 4 months, and sick dogs are all prohibited, as are dogs that haven't been spayed or neutered. Dogs must be licensed and be current on their shots with proof attached to the collar. While dogs can be unleashed inside the park, they must have a collar or harness and the guardian must have a leash in their possession at all times.
Guardians must clean up after their dogs within the park and outside the fenced area, using appropriate waste receptacles on-site. Children younger than 12 are not permitted within the fenced area. Food, alcoholic beverages, glass containers, tobacco use, climbing, bicycles, skateboards, skates and other motorized devices (other than wheelchairs) are not permitted.
"Be smart, be safe, follow the rules and have a good time," Lawton said, noting visitors can contact police to report any misconduct. The Montville Police Department can be reached at (860) 848-7510.
Visitors who notice broken equipment or issues that need immediate attention can notify the Parks and Recreation office at (860) 848-6780. Residents can also call Animal Control at (860) 848-0000 or state police for emergencies at (860) 848-6500.