Dogs running around local parks off leash are becoming a concern in Darien, and are especially a source of alarm in the time of Covid-19, according to members of the town’s Parks & Recreation Commission.

If people don’t strictly comply with the rules, the commission said it would consider not allowing dogs on any of the park properties until the pandemic ends.

At its April 15 meeting, in which all members participated remotely, the commission discussed the dog issue, as well as steps it plans to take for park use during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Commission member Mike Sgroe said he’s hearing that there is more than a few instances of people walking with dogs off leash at Woodland Park.

He said he heard that there were three different people with dogs off leash recently.

“I think it’s an issue in Woodland’s and Selleck’s where we’re keeping those parks open specifically under difficult circumstances,” said Sgroe, who is also co-chairman of the town’s Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee. “I think that’s an issue that we should take very, very seriously.”

“People should not be abusing the rules under these unique circumstances,” he added.

According to commission member Susan Daly, a woman posted on social media that her husband got bitten by one of the unleashed dogs.

Pam Gery, director of Parks and Recreation, received an email from the woman, and said she would encourage the woman to fill out an incident report.

She added that she’s alarmed about dogs running up to people and children without a leash.

Daly said she’s concerned there is no enforcement at Woodland Park.

Geri suggested an animal control officer should be placed on call at Woodland Park several times a week, or even daily.

Commission members said it’s important to post about not having unleashed dogs on social media, as a strong reminder to the public.

“I have zero tolerance for this right now,” Commission Chairman Lorene Bora said.

Next steps

The commission will spread the word about unleashed dogs on social media sites and on the town website.

“If we continue to have these observations in the next week to ten days, we’ll have to take more restrictive measures,” Bora said.

Geri said it would be worth having a few more strict signs at Woodland Park, as well as having park employees there during this time to try to better enforce the rules.

Currently, Darien parks are closed to vehicular traffic. “That seems to cut back on attendance in the park quite considerably,” Bora said.

Darien Parks & Recreation response to COVID-19

The following are some protocols that the town’s Parks & Recreation Commission have implemented in response to the pandemic:

 Limit in-person visits and maximize online/website usage for necessary Parks and Rec business (purchasing beach stickers, room/park rental permits, spring/summer program registration, etc.).

 Park playgrounds and bathrooms are closed due to the risk of virus exposure.

 Pickleball nets have been set up on the single tennis court at Cherry Lawn and will remain on the tennis court to minimize the exposure of breaking them down and setting them up every day. Please regard social distancing while playing at one’s own risk.

 The paddle tennis courts at Weed Beach and tennis courts at Cherry Lawn and Weed Beach will be closed for play until further notice.

 Picnic areas in all Darien parks will be closed until further notice.

 All spring programs scheduled to start in April and May have been canceled. Refunds will processed in April.

Watch the Parks & Recreation Commission meeting on Darien TV/79.