Huntington Opens Heckscher Park to Leashed Dogs!
Pilot program sponsored by Councilwoman Joan Cergol includes educational campaign aided by LI-DOG
A pilot program to allow leashed dogs in Huntington’s Heckscher Park started January 1, 2020! The pilot program is the result of a resolution sponsored by Huntington Councilwoman Joan Cergol and passed unanimously by the Huntington Town Board on Oct. 16th, 2019. The resolution establishes a three-month pilot program with the expectation is that if the first three months are successful, the pilot will be extended for another three months and so on throughout the year.
In order to make sure the pilot program is a success, Councilwoman Cergol is working with the Long Island Dog Owners Group (LI-DOG) on an educational campaign to spread the word about common sense rules for the park.
The educational campaign includes:
- An explanatory video featuring Councilwoman Cergol and her beautiful boxer, Dempsey. (See Councilwoman Cergol’s Video now.)
- Detailed signage to be installed at all park entrances.
- An at-a-glance card flyer detailing the rules.
- A dedicated cadre of LI-DOG volunteers who will serve as ambassadors in the park, handing out the card and answering questions from dog owners and persons without dogs. (If you would like to serve as an LI-DOG park ambassador, email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
- Installation of dog waste bag dispensers at the park.
“The key to this program’s success is dog owners understanding what is allowed and respecting the rights of all people who want to enjoy Huntington’s signature park, both with and without dogs,” Councilwoman Cergol said. “That’s the main thrust of our educational campaign.”
“LI-DOG’s members understand that bringing their dogs to Heckscher is a privilege that we would like to see become permanent,” said Ginny Munger Kahn, LI-DOG’s president. “Our volunteers want to make sure that all dog owners understand their responsibility to make this program work.”
The rules, as noted in both the signage and the information card, require dog owners to:
- Keep dogs on leash (maximum 6 feet) and under control. No retractable leashes.
- Pick up and properly dispose of dog waste.
- Yield to all other park goers on the paths by stepping off the path.
- Keep dogs out of the playground, picnic areas and tennis courts and the ball field, when in use.
- Keep dogs quiet during events at the Harry Chapin Rainbow Stage.
- Avoid wildlife for their safety and their dog’s.
- Keep dogs out of the plantings and the pond.
- Have dogs licensed and vaccinated.
- Have no more than two dogs per handler.
- Respect other park goers so the park is a good experience for everyone!
Park-goers with safety concerns are advised to call the Town’s 24-hour Public Safety number, 631-351-3234.
“We want everyone to be able to enjoy the beauty and serenity of Heckscher Park and the rules established for this program should ensure that this remains the case,” said Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci. “Please let us know about your experience with the 90-day dog-walking pilot program so that we can fully assess the success of this program at the end of March.”
Councilman Mark Cuthbertson said, “Combining this pilot program with an educational campaign will give us the feedback from residents we need to ensure that everyone can enjoy the park.”
Councilman Eugene Cook said, “Over the years many people have reached out to the Town Board asking to remove the Heckscher Park ban on allowing dogs in the park. As these residents would like to enjoy using Heckscher Park with their families, including their canine companions, as they have been able to do at other locations without incident for years. As a dog owner, I understand the strong relationship between an owner and their companion. This pilot program to allow leashed dogs in Heckscher Park will build on those relationships, and it will also be a benefit for our community as a whole. In order to ensure that this is properly implemented, I would like to hear all of our resident’s comments, concerns, and suggestions during the pilot period so that we can ensure this program can continue in the future or not.”
Councilman Ed Smith said, “I encourage pilot programs. It gives the residents and elected officials the opportunity to work together on programs within the Town to meet everyone’s needs and pleasures.”
The different facets of the educational program were worked out by a committee that included representatives from various Town departments and LI-DOG; Karen Thomas, who organized the petition drive asking for dogs to be allowed in the park; and Len Urban, from the Town’s Citizens Advisory Committee on Persons with Disabilities. The Citizens Advisory Committee wanted to ensure that a dog-friendly Heckscher remained friendly for everyone, including persons with mobility issues.
“I thank LI-DOG and all of the members of the committee for creating this educational program and I appreciate the dedication of the volunteer ambassadors,” Councilwoman Cergol said.
For more information about the pilot program, call Councilwoman Cergol’s office at 631-351-3173 or email LI-DOG at email@example.com.
And if you plan to walk your dog to Heckscher Park, please volunteer to become an LI-DOG Park Ambassador! Help us make the pilot program a success by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your support!