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Sep 15, 2009 7:51 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton board still split on Springs Park dog plan

Sep 15, 2009 7:51 PM

The Springs Park is once again at issue before the East Hampton Town Board, as the town’s Department of Land Management prepares a management plan for the 42-acre park that allows half of the cleared portion to continue to be used by people walking their dogs without leashes.

Half of the park, which is on Three Mile Harbor Road, is currently fenced and the other half can be used by the public, but Town Supervisor Bill McGintee said that the new plan—which focuses heavily on putting up signs to explain the regulations governing use of the park—does not include enough amenities to encourage users other than dog owners.

Last fall, a plan to restrict dog owners to an 11-acre section of the park the farthest from the road was shouted down by 100 angry dog owners at a public hearing. The town purchased the property, which had been a nursery and could have been developed into 16 house lots, in 2001 for $1.6 million, and the park opened in 2004.

Mr. McGintee also said that he believes the park is a liability to the town, after a pit bull killed a fawn, a woman lost a finger when she got between two fighting dogs at the park and a town worker was bitten in recent months.

Only three members of the Town Board were present Tuesday morning for a discussion of the plan. Town Board member Pete Hammerle said that he has found the dog park to be a peaceful place that is a far cry from the nursery that owned the land before it was purchased by the town. Town Board member Pat Mansir said that while she didn’t see the use of the park changing much, she wanted to ensure that it wasn’t open at night. Brad Loewen, who has opposed the dog park, was not at the meeting and neither was Julia Prince.

Mr. McGintee had the most harsh words for the park.

“We’ve had a deer down there killed by a pit bull. It can be as placid and peaceful as it can be, but from my perspective, it is a major liability to this town,” he said. “My concerns are that you will never attract other user groups. We have trails all over town and dogs are constantly at the beaches. They have full run of beaches and we have been able to work it out.”

The plan for Springs Park calls for dog owners to educate one another at the facility, as is the case at most dog parks, said Sara Davison, the executive director of the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, who spoke at the work session.

The rules would include notice that people should enter the fenced-in portion of the park at their own risk and that they should bag and dispose of dog waste and keep their dogs under control at all times. The sign also states that it is unlawful to allow dogs to chase people and put them in fear of physical danger, and that dogs should be leashed at the first sign of aggression. The sign also states that aggressive dogs, sick dogs, unvaccinated and unlicensed dogs and dogs in heat should not be brought to the park. Food would also not be allowed in the dog area.

Ms. Davison said that the legal definition of keeping dogs “under control” is ensuring that they respond to voice commands.

The plan does not include any details regarding hours of operation. Land Management Director Scott Wilson, who presented the plan, said that the hours were not spelled out in part because there was some debate over whether stargazing would be permitted at the park. The plan also calls for encouraging the development of native species and mowing certain areas to control invasive species such as Russian olive trees.

It also calls for a five-member committee, appointed annually, to oversee the park operations.

“It won’t be just made up of the dog walkers,” said Mr. Wilson. “It will have the entire park and its best interests in mind.”

After more than an hour of discussion and sometimes heated debate, those board members present on Tuesday morning came to no decision about whether the plan was ready for a public hearing.

One neighbor of the park, Lula Blackwell-Hafner, said that she would like to see more user groups encouraged at the park. She also said that she was concerned that the recycled concrete aggregate, known as RCA, used at the entrance to the park, includes garbage and may contain toxic dust.

Aside from the liability issues raised by Mr. McGintee, the problem of making the park more inviting for people other than dog owners was central to the debate.

“Let’s not fabricate user groups,” said Mr. Hammerle. “We had a hearing. The only people who showed up were dog owners. Where are these people who are going to drive to the park and have a picnic?”

“I see nothing about what we’re going to do to attract other users” in the plan, said Mr. McGintee. “Kids are not going to bicycle up the road to go into the park to be chased” by dogs.

“You’re going to have human reaction to everything, but it’s primarily a dog park,” said Ms. Mansir. “I don’t see that changing.”

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If Mr. McGintee is going to use the Town's liability cost as an issue, then the Board should examine the costs of carrying liability insurance at all our other town parks and nature preserves, where there are, among other activities, bow and gun hunting, rugby, softball, and skateboarding, just to mention a few activities that carry substantial liability.
Additionally,he complains that the park needs to be made "more inviting for people other than dog owners." This implies that the evolution ...more
By P.A.B. (23), East Hampton on Sep 15, 09 8:34 PM
I can assure you that Mr. McGintee is a far bigger liability to the town than the dog park!!!!!
By easthampsta (4), East Hampton on Sep 15, 09 9:59 PM
Check out the story in this week's issue about the new dog park at Bidawee in Westhampton. Bideawee monitors the behavior and health of the dogs, plus it separates big dogs from little. Brilliant ways to avoid some of the problems we see at the EH park.
By easthamptoner (34), easy hampton on Sep 18, 09 5:08 PM
The Hampton Classic, Horse Show, Bridgehampton