The grand opening of the Valley Stream dog park in May revealed a slight hiccup: The dogs didn't like it.
So village leaders embarked on reconstruction and say the park is now a hit. But some residents are barking about why the project took so long, its cost and a lack of vision among village officials.
The 11,500-square-foot park, which initially cost about $50,000, had flooring that consisted of small round rocks that irritated dogs' feet. Only 65 residents had bought memberships to the park by July, said Michael Powers, a member of the Friends of Valley Stream Dog Park group.
So the village closed the park for three weeks in August and September to place synthetic turf over the rocks at a cost of $20,000.
The park reopened Sept. 15 to happy, frolicking pups. The new flooring, in addition to benches, a gazebo and a ramp built by local Boy Scouts, have given the park new life, Powers said.
"They turned it from a rectangle full of rocks into a destination," said Powers, whose group assists the village in running the park.
Some residents questioned why the village didn't use artificial turf in the first place. Others said the village has spent a lot of money on a park that so far has about 100 members.
"Spending taxpayer money for a dog park did not seem to me the best use of village funds," said Carol Crupi, president of the Valley Stream Community Association.
The park is open to residents of Valley Stream and Central High School District 1. Village residents pay an $18 fee for park use, while school district residents pay $55.
Mayor Edwin Fare, who uses the dog park with his cockapoo, Harley, said the park is growing in popularity with dog owners. He added that fundraisers for the park will help defray the cost to taxpayers.
Fare identified the dog park, located behind Village Hall, as a priority when he was elected in March 2011.
"It's not so strange to put $20,000 into a dog park," Fare said. "We sink millions of dollars into our pool system."
The village is also working to get the park more members, said Bob Fumagalli, the deputy village treasurer. Hempstead Town provided the village with a list of 665 local residents with dog licenses, and the village recently sent letters to all of them encouraging them to join.
Fumagalli said he expects membership to increase in the spring, and added, "The village board eventually might choose to grow to other communities."
At the park, Valley Stream resident Devon Charles said he and his chocolate Labrador, Ace, are grateful for the improvements to the park.
"It's much better on his paws. The flooring used to give him cuts and stuff like that. But now it's real soft," Charles said. "You could not ask for better terrain."