Every morning at sunrise Ron Winters of Myrtledale Road walks his dog Dusty about three miles in and around Scarsdale. “I see a lot of people with dogs, even this early on,” he said, estimating that he usually sees around 20 other dog walkers in an hour-long walk.
But in Scarsdale, he says, it’s hard to find places where dogs can play freely. “Being able to leave your dog off the leash is great. It helps socialize the dogs and helps you meet your neighbors, ”Winters said. “But if you walk past one of the schools or parks that we have in town,” he continued, “they all say dogs are off.”
On November 16, Scarsdale’s board of directors held a public working session to discuss options for establishing a permanent dog park in the village, continuing a conversation started in 2018. They also discussed the possibility to establish “Dog parks in various places, to be determined in consultation with village associations in the neighborhood.
“I think a dog park is a wonderful idea,” Winters said. And he’s not the only Scarsdale resident to voice that sentiment lately. Julie Stonberg of Brookby Road also expressed her support for a dog park, recalling that when she had a dog, she took her to the New Rochelle Dog Park several times a week. “If you have a big dog he needs a lot of exercise,” she said, adding, “It would be so nice to have a place for that in Scarsdale.”
Black Birch Lane resident Josh Frankel has started an online petition calling on administrators to ‘relaunch’ the 2018 initiative and ‘finally set up a dog park in our community’. More than 400 respondents have signed the petition since Frankel created it on September 22. “I think there is an appetite for this to happen,” Frankel said.
At the November 16 working session, administrators encouraged Scarsdale residents to comply with village ordinances by obtaining dog licenses for their dogs. Administrator Randy Whitestone noted that the number of dog licenses issued by the village has hovered around 400 for about 10 years, but this year it has fallen to 268 from a peak of 488 in 2016. “We know that this is number is not exact, ”Whitestone said. , echoing comments from Mayor Jane Veron and Administrator Lena Crandall about an apparent increase in the number of local dog owners during the pandemic.
“It’s so important to have these licenses. I think our residents would be looking to be compliant, so we need to raise awareness, ”said Veron.
Veron noted that the village council has encountered obstacles in implementing dog park plans in the past due to the low level of compliance with the dog license requirement. “To convincingly justify why we should be spending tax dollars on a dog park, it’s really important to show that there are dogs allowed in Scarsdale,” Veron said.
Village administrators also heard presentations from Public Works Superintendent Jeff Coleman and Parks, Recreation and Conservation Superintendent Brian Gray on their ongoing efforts to identify and secure a suitable location for a permanent dog park in Scarsdale.
In 2018, the village commissioned JMC, an Armonk-based site development consultancy, to conduct a feasibility study for the potential creation of a dog park at the Weinberg Nature Center, near Mamaroneck Road and Barker. Lane. This location was ultimately deemed inappropriate, Gray said, citing concerns about noise, effects on wildlife and the anticipated need for deforestation in the area.
After JMC presented its feasibility study to the village council in December 2018, Coleman contacted the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) to assess the feasibility of licensing another section of land. elsewhere on Mamaroneck Road – particularly the interior area of the Hutchinson River Parkway North Exit Ramp, near the intersection of Mamaroneck and Colonial Roads.
The proposed dog park there, Coleman said, would use about an acre on about three acres of land and include fenced areas for small and large dogs, a gated transfer area for dog owners to free up. their pets in complete safety, a gravel parking lot that can accommodate between 20 and 30 parked cars and a paved driveway connecting the area to Mamaroneck Road.
The NYSDOT rejected the proposal Coleman submitted on behalf of the village, citing concerns about the proposed dog park’s proximity to the Hutchinson River Parkway, Coleman said. Coleman also said he would submit a revised plan responding to NYSDOT’s comments and expected to receive a response from NYSDOT by spring.
But during the public comment session, some Scarsdale residents suggested other areas already owned and administered by the village would be better suited for a permanent dog park. Noting that “it took almost two and a half years to get a ‘no’ from the state” on the original proposal, Frankel expressed doubts whether the revised proposal would be approved in due course – or not. all. “These negotiations could continue long after we are all perished,” he warned, demanding that the village board provide an alternative plan that would not depend on external approval.
Referring to a letter he wrote which was previously published in the Inquirer, Frankel recommended the existing village maintenance and storage facility at Ramsey Road as “an ideal site”, adding that, according to his research, the village had a total of about 20 acres. . “We are barking the wrong tree,” he said. “We should move away from the Hutchinson River Parkway site and instead focus on something that we can do with very little effort and very little money. Let’s do this.
Coleman took issue with Frankel’s assessment of the village facility, saying maps produced by the Department of Public Works showed only 9,000 square feet of available space at that location – far less than the acre that is typically considered the minimum space required for a dog park.
In an open letter to the board of directors on November 17, a day after the work session, Frankel took issue with Coleman’s assessment that there are only 9,000 square feet available in the maintenance storage facility. , and provided calculations and a map to substantiate his point.
Andrew Sereysky, president of the Greenacres Neighborhood Association, also called for an alternative plan. He recommended the municipal water complex, saying that because it was empty for months of the year, “it would appear to be a pretty natural site” for a dog park. Speaking later in the meeting, Fox Meadow Road resident Bob Harrison also mentioned the pool complex as a possible location for a dog park.
Gray expressed concern about the possibility of setting up a dog park at the pool complex. Because swimming pools are left all winter with low water levels, he said, they could pose dangerous risks to people and animals. He also said the time it takes to close the pool and prepare it to reopen each year could limit its availability for other purposes.
“The most complex part of it all is the location,” Veron said. But the Trustees have expressed a clear desire to move forward with finding the best possible location for a dog park without unnecessary delay. “We have experienced a pandemic. People crave a way to engage with each other on the outside, ”said administrator Jonathan Lewis.
Acknowledging that a dog park was “definitely in demand,” Deputy Mayor Justin Arest signaled the council’s interest in working with residents who may already be considering options to fund construction and maintenance of the park. “Some residents mentioned the potential for a public-private partnership,” he said, adding that “it would be wonderful” if interested community members could come forward and talk to the council about their ideas.
Gray also presented some preliminary ideas for creating pop-up dog parks, which he said could be built at various locations around Scarsdale to stay in place for about a month. These temporary dog parks would be demarcated by removable fences and would require some staff maintenance.
Gray suggested several potential locations for the pop-up dog parks – including Drake Park, George Field Park, Freightway Garage, and the lower party hall parking lot – but he acknowledged that these were only provisional ideas.
“When we think of a site for a pop-up, there’s a constant tension between the fact that a lot of people want it, but may not want it in their area,” Veron said.
Stonberg raised safety concerns with pop-up dog parks. “For any pop-up dog park, especially if it’s near a road, you really need to secure it well,” Stonberg said.
Winters, for his part, believes the village could take immediate action to make recreation areas available to dog owners and their pets. “I really think we are too restrictive in closing our parks and schools,” he told the Inquirer. Noting that winter was coming, he added: “I don’t think it would be a bad idea to try, as a pilot, to allow dogs on school grounds or in parks for a few hours. per day, with strict rules.
Winters said he believes the village can count on the conscience and good character of residents by trusting them to handle the grounds responsibly, including cleaning up after their dogs.
Scarsdale resident Susan Douglass echoed the sentiment during the November 16 business meeting. “I think most dog owners are responsible,” she said. While she acknowledged that, as Crandall pointed out, some local dog owners could sometimes dispose of dog waste inappropriately, Douglass suggested that more regular removal of waste in outdoor trash cans might solve this problem. . “We walk all over town, in all neighborhoods, and invariably Scarsdale’s garbage cans are overflowing,” she said.
“See what’s going on. If this turns out to be a mess, you can shut it down, ”Winters said of opening outdoor recreation areas for dogs on a trial basis. “In winter, these parks and fields are not used anyway. I think it’s worth a try.