Huntington Opens Most Town Parks to Leashed Dogs

Action at Aug. 15th Town Board Meeting Allows On-Leash Dog Walking in Dozens of Parks Previously Off-Limits to Dog Owners

Dix Hills Park; Photo Credit Irene Rabinowitz

The Huntington Town Board on Tues., Aug. 15th unanimously approved a change in the Town Code that will allow people to walk their leashed dogs in almost all Town parks! The change affects dozens of local parks ranging from the historic Village Green in Huntington Village to brand new Sweet Hollow Park in Melville. Among parks that were previously off-limits where people can now walk their dogs on-leash are Carpenter Farm Park in Greenlawn, the Centerport Park Trail in Centerport, Vets Park in E. Northport, and Jeffrey Wenig Park—a 94-acre passive park also known as Roundtree Park– in Melville. (To see a list of parks in the Town, go to the Huntington Trails Guide.

“We and our supporters are very excited about this change in Town policy,” LI-DOG President Ginny Munger Kahn told The Times of Huntington. “Walking your dog on-leash in a beautiful public park is one of life’s great pleasures and we are grateful to Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone and the Town Board for making this a possibility for many more Town residents and their dogs.” LI-DOG’s post on Facebook about the Town’s big move got more than 200 likes within 48 hours. (See the post and comments at Huntington Town Board Approves On-Leash Access to Parks.

The code change, which was made upon the recommendation of the Huntington Greenway Trails Committee on which LI-DOG serves, replaces an initiative begun in June 2013, when the Town Board overturned a longstanding ban on dogs in local parks and approved the designation of on-leash dog walking trails based on recommendations from the Trails Committee. Five trails were designated under the initiative including trails in Dix Hills Park, the Jerome Ambro Preserve, Phragmites Park and Sunshine Acres Park. In making this latest recommendation, the Trails Committee noted that the initiative worked well and there were no issues with on-leash dogs on trails in public parks.

The Trails Committee recommended that the Town adopt uniform park standards in order to align its policies with those of Suffolk County. The County allows on-leash dogs throughout its park system including its parks in Huntington such as West Hills County Park. By adopting park standards in line with the County, the new town policy will make it easier for people to understand the policy towards dogs in local parks and will increase park and trail use, the Trails Committee said.

This latest change not only greatly expands the number of parks available for on-leash dog walking, but it also expands the areas within parks where people can walk their dogs. On-leash dog walking is no longer limited to individual trails, but rather is allowed throughout parks—with certain restrictions.

Specifically, the new law restricts dogs—both on-leash and off-leash–from playgrounds, athletic fields, picnic areas, town camp programs and town beaches. On-leash dogs are allowed on paved areas and boardwalks at town beaches. The rules also require that dogs be on leashes no longer than 6-feet in length and that dog waste be immediately picked up and disposed of properly.

The two main exceptions to the new policy are Heckscher Park in Huntington Village and Betty Allen Preserve in Centerport. LI-DOG and other speakers at the July public hearing on the code change urged the Town to allow on-leash dog walking in Heckscher Park. Access to Heckscher Park is the most common request LI-DOG gets from Huntington dog owners and allowing on-leash dogs would deter the geese who foul the lawns and paths in that park. However, Town officials expressed concerns about how busy the park is already. LI-DOG is optimistic that once this new policy is in place and has proven successful, we will be able to revisit this restriction with the Town.

In a July interview with The Long Islander, Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone said the Town would be monitoring the parks closely to make sure people are cleaning up after their dogs and keeping their dogs on-leash. If the policy change is successful, he said, town officials will consider expanding the policy to more areas in the future. (Read The Long Islander article Canine-Loving Change Mulled by Board.)

It is very important that everyone abides by the new rules for the parks by keeping dogs on-leash and under control, by cleaning up after their dogs, and by keeping dogs off playgrounds, ball fields camp grounds, picnic areas and town beaches. The success of this program and our ability to expand access not only to Heckscher Park but also to town beaches depends on our ability to show that dog owners are responsible and respect other park users. We know our supporters “get it”, but please help us spread the word!

LI-DOG is excited about the change in Town policy. Not only will the change allow many more people and their dogs to enjoy Town parks, but increasing park use will makes our parks safer. In addition, providing access to parks will incent more people to get out and walk their dogs, which is good not only for dogs’ health, but for people’s health, too. Finally, we are optimistic that this change will set a great example for other Towns on Long Island that still ban dog owners and their dogs from public parks. (To read LI-DOG’s statement in support of the change in policy, go to Statement in Support of Local Law Adopting Uniform Park Standards for Leashed Dogs in Huntington Town Parks.)

Once again we want to thank our supporters who came to the July public hearing and sent emails to the Town Board in favor of this resolution. Town officials said they were pleased to see that the proposed change had gotten quite a bit of support.

If you haven’t already done so, and you’re a Huntington resident, please email or call Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone—the sponsor of this resolution—and Huntington Town Board members to thank them for making this historic change possible for you and your dog! Don’t forget to cc: so we can see your emails, too.

Supervisor Frank Petrone, email or call 631-351-3030

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, email or call 631-351-3172

Councilwoman Susan Berland, email or call 631-351-3173

Councilman Eugene Cook, email or call 631-351-3174

Councilwoman Tracey Edwards, email or call 631-351-3175

The more emails elected officials get, the more likely they’ll expand dog-friendly policies in the future!

Thank you for your support!

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