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North Hempstead opens 3 parks to dogs in pilot project

A sign at Michael J. Tully Park in

A sign at Michael J. Tully Park in New Hyde Park on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, welcomes dogs, but notes that the welcome is part of a pilot program. North Hempstead Town is considering allowing dogs in its parks permanently. Credit: Chuck Fadely

North Hempstead’s dogs may soon be permanently allowed in several town parks, following a six-month pilot study.

Town officials will hold a public hearing Feb. 23 to discuss continued access for dogs in North Hempstead Beach Park in Port Washington, Michael J. Tully Park in New Hyde Park and Mary Jane Davies Green in Manhasset, an action that Supervisor Judi Bosworth said would make the town a more dog-friendly place.

Bosworth said she was surprised to find when she took office in 2014 that dogs on leashes weren’t allowed in town parks.

“It just didn’t seem we were making many accommodations for the residents who have dogs,” Bosworth said. “We want to do everything to make it convenient for dog owners and make it compatible for those who don’t have dogs.”

The pilot program began in July 2015 and allows residents to bring their leashed dogs to three of the town’s parks. Officials are now assessing the program and analyzing the results of a December community survey.

Bosworth said more than 100 residents participated in the town’s online survey and that the community response has been “overwhelmingly positive,” despite several concerns about enforcement.

Jill Weber, the town’s commissioner of Parks and Recreation, said residents were bringing their dogs to parks illegally before the pilot program.

“Part of what we’re doing is recognizing that and welcoming them instead of saying no,” Weber added.

She said the program’s rules and regulations are posted in parks, alongside dog waste disposal bags. Owners must keep their dogs on leashes, pick up after them and keep them off certain areas of North Hempstead Beach Park. Dogs are not allowed on the boardwalk during peak summer months.

Bosworth said the proposal is the latest in the town’s animal initiatives. In recent months, the town held a doggy pool party at Clinton G. Martin Park in New Hyde Park, and also conducted a safety campaign reminding owners not to leave dogs in hot cars.

“We’re doing whatever we can now to raise consciousness about how to be good pet owners,” Bosworth said.

Should the pilot program be deemed a success, it may eventually be extended beyond the current three parks. Weber said the town will be looking closely at community feedback regarding which new parks to include.

“Dog owners are a constituent group that we were probably not serving as much as we could have,” Weber said. “The more we could offer recreational opportunities to town residents who might want to use our parks, the better.”

The program will be discussed at a Feb. 23 public hearing at Town Hall.

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