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Southold pair seeks more dog-friendly space

Two Southold residents want a bigger dog park.

Two Southold residents want a bigger dog park. Credit: Handout

Two Southold Town residents who cherish all the open space the North Fork provides want their dogs to be able to run free in more of it.

So Dawn Bennett and Asha Gallacher, who run the North Fork School for Dogs in Cutchogue, are taking the first steps toward opening a new dog park in their town. Southold currently operates a small dog park behind its recreation center in Peconic. But Bennett says it’s not nearly big enough for number of dog owners in town, and especially during the summer months when so many part-time residents stay on the North Fork.

“It’s more of a dog run than a park,” said Bennett, who lives in Cutchogue with her four dogs. “Dogs like to run around and go crazy, and if there isn’t enough space, it becomes more of an issue than if they were on leashes.”

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Bennett and Gallacher, under the name North Fork Canine Council, plan to ask the town to take an inventory of the open space it owns and consider taking 2 to 3 acres for use as a new dog park. Bennett said she sent a letter and has had conversations with Town Supervisor Scott Russell about the idea, but is gauging community support before formally approaching the town board.

Bennett said she has distributed petitions in about 15 locations in town and in one week has collected about 250 signatures.

Russell said he is open to the idea and looks forward to working with the group, but said the biggest obstacle will be finding the space. He said they will have to be flexible on what they would like to see happen.

“Two to 3 acres is probably unrealistic to find,” he said. “I don’t have that kind of inventory that I can use for committed spaces. Most of the land we own is a result of preservation agreements.”

Bennett has suggested Strawberry Fields Fairgrounds in Mattituck or Laurel Lake Park in Laurel, but Russell said both of those sites are jointly owned by the town and other parties and have specific allowed uses.

He said a more feasible possibility might be to expand the current dog park, which he said measures a couple of thousand square feet at most. He said the park was opened in 2003, and there have been no prior complaints about its size.

Bennett said if the right space was found, she envisions the park following the same model as the Middle Island Dog Park, which charges resident and non-resident fees for passes and requires dogs to be licensed and up-to-date with vaccinations.

She said she hopes to address the board at the end of February.

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