Dog park supporters plead their case

Dog park proponents want a place they can let their dogs run free without risking their safety (photo by Will Dendis)

A dog park would be a great addition to Saugerties, speakers told the Town Board last week. Rae Stang, the owner of Lucky Chocolates, has long been a supporter of a dog park. She said there appears to be a lot of enthusiasm for the idea. After the question was raised in the Saugerties Times, many people wrote in to express their support.

“It seems as though the town has a lot of things to offer everybody, but dog-owners are kind of getting the short end of the stick,” Stang said.


Supervisor Kelly Myers said the town could certainly look for a suitable space.

“It would be helpful if you could put some ideas together and come up with a proposal,” she said. “Then we could start looking for some property.”

Former councilman Tom Macarille said the Town Board previously explored the idea of a dog park. “We looked around and did a feasibility study on where we could put a dog park. We looked at Cantine Field, we looked at the property down by the Glasco Fire House and we looked at property in Twin Maples. The problem we found was that surrounding neighbors didn’t want it near them. And, by the way, it’s very expensive.”

Once the park is opened, there’s a lot of work involved in maintaining it, he said.

“We really did take a hard look at it,” he said. “We had a relatively large committee of dog-owners and it was not feasible – we just couldn’t find the property.”

Resident Bob Davies said these issues shouldn’t deter the effort. “I haven’t found anything worth doing that is not difficult,” he said. Davies said he has been doing search-and-rescue work with dogs for the past five years.

“One thing I’ve found is there is no place for dogs,” he said. “I do a lot of hiking in the mountains, Echo Lake, wherever, and that’s about the only time I ever get to take my dog off lead.”

An incident last summer convinced Davies that it was not safe to walk a dog off lead, even in fairly remote areas. “I had a fellow hiker – I’m not going to call him a gentleman, he was anything but – threatened to shoot my dog the next time he saw my dog off lead. We definitely need a place where dogs can run safely off lead.”

Davies looked up census numbers and found that in 2010 there were about 7,478 households in Saugerties. Thirty nine percent of households in the United States have dogs, so Saugerties should have 2,916 dogs, without accounting for the fact that some households have more than one dog. “I think there’s a definite need, or at least an interest, in pursuing this further,” he said.

Dog parks create more responsible dog ownership, Stang said.

“There also appears to be less fighting among dogs in a park than in other situations. Dogs get aggressive when they are leashed, but if you let them off leash they may be more sociable, play and things like that,” she said.

Stang urged supporters to participate in an online dog park contest at While last year, Saugerties fell short of the number of signatures needed to win, many larger cities were in the mix, Stang said. This year, they are judging towns and cities by proportion of population, which would give a small town like Saugerties a better shot.


Other parks

Dog park proponents are now looking to neighboring towns to learn how it’s done.

This weekend, the Gardiner dog park will open. It’s located on a half-acre of land behind the Town Hall. The force behind the project is Nancy R. Cass Barrett, who joined the town’s Parks and Recreation Commission last spring and immediately got to work on the idea.

In Saugerties there are worries about cost for town taxpayers. The Gardiner project is coming in at no cost, says Cass Barrett, thanks to several key donors and many volunteers. All the town has to do is mow it.

The fence, worth $10,000, was donated by The Natural Pet Center of Ireland Corners, the pet waste station was donated by the Gardiner Animal Hospital, and the local Girl Scouts Troops #60288 and 60383 donated the arbor (a shade structure), landscaping supplies and girl power.

Fundraising is ongoing for the Gardiner park. Numerous raffles and a silent auction have been held, and memorial plaques in tribute to deceased pets will be sold as a fundraiser. The goal is to make the park totally self-sustaining, said Cass Barrett. Upkeep isn’t expensive but they’d like to add more features to the park, especially water.

A proposed park in Kingston, at Kingston Point, has been authorized by the city. It’s now in the fundraising stage. It’s estimated to cost about $100,000.

The town of Kinderhook recently supported an effort to put in a dog park, councilwoman Leeanne Thornton said. “The town dedicated the land and a water line from a preexisting water supply,” she said. “The citizens’ group raised the funds for fencing and they take care of the mowing and the waste disposal that comes with the park.”

Fran Breitkopf of Woodstock said the town did the original construction of the dog park, which is a town park, and the dog owners put in the labor to keep it clean. After Hurricane Irene damaged the park, the dog owners raised money to repair and refurbish it and continue to hold fundraising events to maintain it, she said.

“We don’t allow food, treats or drinks in the park, that helps to keep it clean,” she said. “The users take care of the park; they clean up after themselves.”


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