Darien parks have mix of on-leash and off-leash areas
After a years-long battle regarding leash laws at the town's parks, the Parks and Recreation Commission voted on several new policies that could be implemented in October.
The commission began discussions Thursday night with Cherry Lawn Park where many people had previously expressed their desire to walk their dogs off-leash while others wanted to see dogs on-leash at all times. The commission decided to compromise and voted on the following guidelines:
An area between the Darien Nature Center and Brookside Road would be designated as an off-leash area, year round, from dawn until dusk. All dogs must be leashed when walking to and from the parking lot; no dogs are allowed on the playing fields, playgrounds or community gardens. During off-peak hours from Sept. 1 to May 31, dogs are allowed off-leash in the designated area, and from dawn until 10:30 a.m. in the rest of the park. Dogs are not allowed off-leash anywhere except the designated area on weekends; during peak hours from June 1 until Aug. 31 dogs are only allowed off-leash in the designated area.
The commission voted unanimously for the conditions. Cherry Lawn Park would be subject to a review six months after the rules go into effect.
At Tilly Pond Park dogs would be allowed off-leash from dawn until 10:30 a.m. on weekdays except for special events.
Woodland Park and Selleck's Woods would require dogs to be on-leash at all times. A proposal was put forward to allow off-leash on a designated trail but it was rejected after commission members referred to a report from the police department saying it would be impossible to enforce the rules if certain trails were off-leash and others required dogs to be leashed.
Stony Brook and the Diller property was designated as off-leash from dawn until dusk, seven days a week.
Town Hall, McGuane Park, Holohan Field and Baker Field would require dogs to be leashed at all times.
The commission decided to keep the rules at Pear Tree Point and Weed Beach since dogs are currently prohibited at those locations unless for medical reasons.
The proposals will go to Town Attorney Wayne Fox to be written in a legal format before the commission votes again in July.
Not everyone was pleased with the compromise as the Darien Dog Owners Group expressed concerns with a lack of off-leash hours.
In an email to the Darien News, DDOG voiced concerns over the potential changes to the parks.
"Currently under the new system, an inordinate amount of traffic and usage is pushed to Cherry Lawn causing an unfair strain on that park's assets and resources," the statement says.
DDOG also voiced concerns with not allowing off-leash hours at parks other than Cherry Lawn in the evening.
"Under the new rules, people who work during the day, especially commuters, will no longer be able to walk and exercise their dogs off leash in the park because of a lack of evening hours (7 p.m. to dusk) or any early morning hours on the weekend (dawn to 8:30 a.m.)."
Creating morning and evening hours at Cherry Lawn and Woodland Park for off-leash exercise would be a more ideal compromise, DDOG said.
"Darien's parks are taxpayer supported and should be available to be shared by all. The decision should be driven by the public's desires, the consensus of all users and data/statistics about who is using our parks and when. Designated morning and evening hours in Cherry Lawn and Woodland Park is the right compromise," the group said.
The rules proposed for the parks would not go into effect until Oct. 1, 2011, if they are adopted.