LITCHFIELD — The Friends of the Litchfield Dog Park met with the Board of Selectmen Tuesday night. The group is proposing that a dog park be established on a 1.3 acre site behind town hall, now home to a town skating rink.

Friends members and attorneys Stephanie Weaver and Rose Blondin Shea gave the presentation to the board.

“I think it went well,” Weaver said of the hearing. “They had a big agenda; they were interviewing applicants for a new building committee to decide what to do with town facilities, like the old Bantam School and town hall, so we were pretty far down on the agenda. They have a lot on their plate.”

Weaver developed a lengthy proposal to express the group’s hopes for the dog park, starting with the benefits of dog ownership, pet exercise and socialization for people and dogs. “Basically, I put that part in the back and put the end in the front,” she said. “We tried to address other things — concerns, risks ... I did an overview.”

The central location of the 1.3 acres behind town hall, she said, provides a place for in-town residents who do not want to drive to a park in another town, and allows those residents to patronize local businesses and “allow their dog to stretch their legs,” Weaver wrote.

She and Shea also pointed to the skating rink property’s central location, saying that it would reduce the need for people to walk their dogs in residential areas.

The skating rink’s use is limited to wintertime, she said, while the dog park would be used year-round. The Friends group will fundraise to pay for fencing, an area for large dogs and small dogs, and have double gates to keep dogs inside. The park, Shea said, would have trash cans, water faucets, drinking bowls and “poop bags” for dog cleanup.

Removing the skating rink might not be necessary, Weaver wrote. “The parcel in mind is 1.3 acres in size, with the existing skating rink at the rear portion,” she said. “One proposal could be to incorporate the skating rink within the two fenced-in areas. At times the town (wants) public skating, that area could be closed for that use.”

Shea was encouraged by the meeting. “It didn’t go perfectly, but it was encouraging to hear that all the selectmen seemed to be in favor of it,” she said. “But it’s still about nailing down a location.”

Raz Alexe, the town’s public works director and engineer, brought up a “potential drainage issue,” he said, which needed to be investigated.

“The selectmen want to look into that,” Shea said. “(Alexe) brought up the drainage issues, and that’s something the town has to address ... I didn’t get the feeling that would be a problem, but it might take time.”

“The board seemed to be in favor, but if this location doesn’t work, we’ll find another,” she said. “We’ll meet more with Denise (Raap) and work with the town.”

Weaver agreed. “The board wants to have public hearings to see if the whole community is interested in having a dog park,” she said. “So they’re going to schedule those.

Last year, the Litchfield Garden Club installed new benches and a fire pit at the skating rink as a community service project. “Someone commented about the benches put in by the garden club, and said ‘Don’t take the benches away,’” Weaver said. “We’ll work with whatever’s there ... we can incorporate those into the dog park.”

The board also asked about the cost of running the park. The Friends group is ready and willing to take on that responsibility. “Several years ago, (Rose) Shea set up a 501(c)(3) organization that would take on the cost of the installation of the fences and facilities needed for the park,” Weaver said. “Dog enthusiasts that are members would take on many of the maintenance projects needed for the park.”

The ongoing care for the park may be in collaboration with the town of Litchfield, and the nonprofit organization is in a good position to collaborate with the town with respect to dogs, such as e-blasts to members concerning lost dogs, health risks such as lyme disease or other dangers, providing foster homes for lost dogs, locating adopting families, and other responsibilities that cost the town money and time resources, according to Weaver.

She also stressed the importance of social time for dogs, that dogs and their owners would all benefit from the park, and that the park would also draw more people into the center of town to patronize the businesses there.

Overall, the two women were encouraged. “This was our first step,” Weaver said. “The Board of Selectmen has to approve our plan first, and then we’ll bring a special exception use permit to Planning and Zoning Commission .Tuesday night was a fair exchange. I felt it was a positive proposal.”

Those interested in learning more about the dog park can visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/586328221502849/

Connecticut Media Group