Wilton dog owners hope for a park of their own

WILTON — There are a lot of dogs in town — there were more than 1,200 as of 2018, according to the clerk’s office. Soon, perhaps, they may have a park in Wilton to call their own.

There is a movement in town to create a dog park on state-owned land across from Allen’s Meadow on Route 7.

The question about building a dog park has come up periodically for more than a decade, but it was discussed in some detail at the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting this month.

The impetus for this latest investigation appears to be a letter to the town from Gregg Feldman, who is the admin for a Facebook group called Wilton Dog Park Supporters 2020, which has 168 members.

At the commission’s meeting, Parks and Recreation Director Steve Pierce said he consulted with First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice on a possible location. The best spot they found, he said, is the land across from Allen’s Meadow the state used for stockpiling material when Route 7 was widened years ago.

Pierce was not sure about the size of the property, but said the town at one time had considered putting two soccer fields and a baseball field there before the state took it. It has a curb cut and room for parking.

Pierce also reported he contacted state Sen. Will Haskell’s office and “they were on board with it and willing to help.” Pierce was hoping Haskell’s office could connect him with the state agencies that would be involved in approving such a project.

The goal, Pierce said, is to have a lease in place by next spring so design and construction could begin.

He did not have answers to commissioners’ questions about environmental testing or costs.

“We are at the very infancy of the project and we’re trying to move it along,” he said.

He did say Vanderslice is looking at this as the town getting the property, but it would be maintained through private means, much like Ambler Farm, but that is still open for discussion, he added.

Pierce also said he checked with the Planning and Zoning Commission “and they did not see this as an issue.”

Feldman attended the virtual meeting and spoke during the public comment period. He said he was part of an effort in 2016 to create a dog park, but finding the right space proved to be vexing. This time around, instead of proposing sites, he asked the town for feasible locations, and that’s how the property Pierce referred to as “Allen’s Meadow East,” was put forward.

Feldman said he and others had found several corporate sponsors four years ago that were “very interested in supporting building a dog park,” he said, adding he believes they are still interested and there is a significant amount of public support.

“Once we get an indication from the state there is most likely a location to build a dog park, we would move to re-solidify our commitments,” he said.

Feldman said his group would work with other municipalities that have their own dog parks, such as Ridgefield and Darien. He noted that he liked Ridgefield’s design.

Feldman said his research suggests it would cost $30,000 to $40,000 to build a dog park.

He said once the project has legs, he would investigate how other towns pay for maintaining their dog parks.

“The benefit of a dog park to the town is immeasurable from community building, attracting residents, overall morale,” he said. “I just know from the time spent in the Ridgefield park there’s nothing like it.”