To the Editor,
At the July 11, 2018 meeting of the Board of Selectmen, the dog park advocates referenced the 2009 Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies Management Plan for the 2 most publicly used open spaces in Woodridge: the Alice Newton Street Memorial Park and the Fitzgerald Tract.
Proponents of siting a dog park on the Fitzgerald tract are technically correct that the study suggested a dog park for that location. However, by quoting the recommendation out of context, they misrepresented it. As chairman of the Conservation Commission when we requested the study, please allow me to explain.
The writers of the Forestry School report were concerned about dogs damaging the ecology of Alice Newton Park. (They’d been asked to study the park and the Fitzgerald walking train and gardens.) They had observed that walkers in Alice Newton Park often allowed their dogs to run freely in the woods. The result was that dogs disturbed nesting birds. Even if a dog does not touch a ground nest, they told us, a dog’s presence can cause the parents to abandon the nest, and the incubating babies die. To deflect dogs from Alice Newton Park, they wrote on (page 66), “We suggest creating a dog park in Woodbridge. The Fitzgerald tract…is one possible location.”
They were not making a recommendation because they thought that dog owners would most enjoy socializing at that location, or because it had the most convenient parking or fencing. They were not suggesting the Fitzgerald tract because they had carefully thought about the best site for a dog park. They had one object: get unleashed dogs out of the woods.
The students and faculty member who did the study were residents of New Haven who had walked on the Fitzgerald Tract and Alice Newton Park to do their study, and they mentioned the only location they had seen that might work. Thus, they prudently added, “…other properties in town may be equally or better suited for this project.”
They also wrote that a leash law would substitute for a dog park. “Proper education of the public as to the importance of leash laws is another means of mediating the situation. Often park users do not have a clear understanding as to why they are being told to leash their pets.”
The Conservation Commission discussed this and agreed that a dog park would harm the Fitzgerald Tract. We worked to get a conservation easement to protect the Fitzgerald Tract from just this sort of development but unfortunately never managed to get that approved.
Thankfully, the Town has established a leash law, and the concerns of the Yale study have been addressed, making a dog park unnecessary for ecological reasons.
Therefore, rationale for a dog park at this time is to benefit dog owners and their dogs. Citing the school of Forestry study out of context falsely represents the intentions of those who wrote the report.
Editor’s Note: Maria Kayne is a former member of the Woodbridge Conservation Commission and Selectman and served as Chairman of the Commission at the time of the 2009 Yale School of Forestry and Environment Management Plan Study of the Alice Newton Park and the Fitzgerald Tract.