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One dog park at Babylon's Tanner Park's now accessible for wheelchair users

Allyson Martin with her service dog, Daton, and

Allyson Martin with her service dog, Daton, and her mom, Emilie on July 26, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Judy Cartwright

A Lindenhurst woman encountered an obstacle -- actually two -- when she took her dog to Tanner Park, a Babylon Town facility on the Great South Bay: She couldn't get into either of the park's dog runs.

"I have a service dog, and I need to take him into the dog park to run," Allyson Martin told us. "I went to take him and -- what the heck -- there's no access at all."

Each dog run has a concrete slab entryway a few inches higher than the surrounding ground. Martin, who has cerebral palsy, said her power wheelchair couldn't maneuver up and over the edge of the slab. So her mom, Emilie Martin, would take the dog, Daton, into one of the runs while Allyson watched.

"I feel like I should be allowed to have access. But it's a huge step," she said the first time we spoke. "There's no way I could get over it."

Babylon was quick to act after we asked about the lack of accessibility. The Public Works Department modified the entrance to one dog run by extending the concrete slab to form a continuous, slightly sloping path all the way to street level. Such a solution wasn't possible at the second run, town spokesman Kevin Bonner said, because the slope was too steep.

On a recent afternoon Allyson Martin entered the dog run unimpeded. Daton got a workout with other visitors -- among them, two puppies that bore the names Jake and Elwood -- while Martin called out commands.

The enclosure is designated for small dogs, 30 pounds and under. Though Daton is larger -- he's a Labrador-golden retriever mix that Martin received last year from Canine Companions for Independence in Medford -- Jake and Elwood did not find him intimidating.

My 92-year-old dad lives at Atria Tanglewood in Lynbrook, an assisted living facility that abuts the Tanglewood Park & Preserve. He enjoys walking and taking in nature. But there are two problems: The brick path has been vandalized and is missing bricks, making it very dangerous for anyone -- especially the elderly -- to walk on, and garbage has collected in the adjacent stream. I've spoken with preserve employees as well as the Atria director numerous times, but to no avail.

-- Ray DiLena, Franklin Square

First, the good news: The brick walkway was repaired in July as a result of our inquiry to Nassau County, which maintains the 11-acre park and preserve.

But accumulations of trash aren't likely to go away any time soon because the location isn't exactly a "stream," as DiLena described it. Rather, it's a "catchment" of floatable debris -- one of hundreds in the county -- intended to prevent such trash from making its way into water off the South Shore, county public works spokesman Michael Martino said.

"Routinely, county crews visit this area to remove accumulated trash and debris, but floating debris arrives as soon as the next rainfall," Martino said in an emailed statement.

The debris -- in this case, largely empty bottles -- comes from Pines Brook, a watershed area that consists of hundreds of acres, Martino said. It had been cleaned a few days before our photo was taken, Martino said, but a storm brought along new trash.

The county has a maintenance schedule for the site, he said, and addresses issues when they are reported by the local residents.

The handicapped parking spaces in the lot closest to North Hempstead's Clinton G. Martin pool in New Hyde Park are routinely full by the time Rena Cogliano arrives.

"The small parking lot closest to the pool has several handicapped spaces, but if you don't get there early enough, you're out of luck. They're always filled up," Cogliano told us.

A second, larger lot has several such spaces but it's farther away and requires crossing the entrance road. Cogliano, who relies on a wheeled walker, wanted to know if some spaces designated for staff in the lot nearest the pool could be converted to handicapped parking.

We were doubtful: A quick scan of the parking lots indicated they meet the guidelines of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Still, we posed the question to the town.

A few days later, town spokeswoman Carole Trottere told us the lot had been re-striped to make room for four new handicapped spaces. When we checked with Cogliano later in the week, she was sitting by the pool. Her car was in the closest lot.

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