Huntington Town Board Approves Pilot Program to Allow Leashed Dogs in Heckscher Park

Pilot Program to Start Jan. 1st

A resolution introduced by Huntington Councilwoman Joan Cergol to create a pilot program to allow people to walk their leashed dogs in Heckscher Park passed the Huntington Town Board unanimously Wednesday night, Oct. 16th! The groundbreaking vote came at a marathon Town Board Meeting and was greeted with applause.

Thank you to Councilwoman Cergol for introducing the resolution and thank you to Councilman Eugene Cook for seconding it!

The pilot program starts Jan. 1st and runs until March 31st. Assuming the pilot is successful, the program should roll over for the following three months and so on for up to a year. The Parks Director will report back to the Town Board on the initial phase on April 15th with any recommendations.

The resolution is the result of an online petition started by Huntington dog owner and PR pro Karen Thomas. That petition, which asked the Town Board to make Heckscher Park a dog-friendly park by allowing leashed dogs, has generated more than 2,500 signatures and great comments from hundreds of dog owners. (To read the petition, go to Petition to Allow Leashed Dogs in Heckscher Park.  To read some of the great comments made by dog owners, go to Quotes from Petition Signers. ) Thank you to everyone who signed and shared the petition!! Thomas submitted the petition and comments to the Town Board Wednesday night.

The resolution sponsored by Councilwoman Cergol and approved by the Town Board allows people to walk their leashed dogs in Heckscher Park except for in the playground, in picnic areas and on the tennis courts. On-leash dogs are permitted on the sports fields, but only when there are no formal or informal games going on. Also, in an important first, leashed dogs are conditionally permitted during performances at the Harry Chapin Rainbow Stage as long as the dogs are quiet and “in no way disruptive.” Finally, dogs are allowed to be walked on-leash on the path around the pond on the condition that dog owners yield to all other park users.

Concerns have been expressed by some senior citizens and people representing those with disabilities that the path around the pond is too narrow to avoid unwanted encounters between people and dogs. The language in the resolution and proper signage can address those concerns, LI-DOG noted in a Letter Supporting Allowing Leashed Dogs in Heckscher Park. Current park rules state that in addition to cleaning up after their dogs:

• Dogs Must Remain Leashed

• Dogs Must Yield to Other Park Users.

Keeping dogs on leash and under control at all times and yielding to other park users should address any remaining concerns about allowing leashed dogs in Heckscher Park, LI-DOG noted in the letter.

In an effort to make sure the pilot program is successful, LI-DOG, Thomas and other dog owners have agreed to help create and participate in a public education campaign to make sure dog owners are aware of the rules of the park. Starting the pilot program on Jan. 1st will provide ample time to develop the public education effort as well as educate dog owners about the rules during the pilot program phase, noted LI-DOG.

“The relationship between dogs and humans continues to evolve,” said Councilwoman Cergol,  “and it is becoming increasingly common to see humans and their canine companions together in public places –- on streets, in restaurants and stores and in parks. While I understand some of the reservations, at the very least, given the many requests, it is worthwhile undertaking a pilot to see if allowing dogs in Heckscher is workable,” she said.

On-leash access to Heckscher Park has been a top goal of Huntington dog owners for several years. The Town opened virtually all its parks to leashed dogs in August 2017, but carved out an exception for Heckscher Park saying the park was too busy. Now because of the petition started by Thomas and the intense interest dog owners have shown in being able to walk their leashed dogs in the park, plus because Councilwoman Cergol listened to her constituents and got the resolution passed, dog owners will finally have the chance to enjoy Heckscher Park with their pups.

Thanks so much to Karen Thomas, who was a GREAT partner to LI-DOG, for making this happen. Special big thanks to Councilwoman Joan Cergol for sponsoring the resolution and getting it passed unanimously. Finally thanks to all our friends, neighbors and supporters who signed the petition, sent emails and showed up for the Town Board Meeting Wednesday night!

Of course, it’s critical we make sure the pilot program works well, and we’ll depend on our fellow dog owners to make that happen, but in the meantime, this is a BIG win for Huntington dog owners and their pups!

What You Can Do: Please let Councilwoman Cergol and her colleagues on the Huntington Town Board know how much you appreciate their unanimous support for allowing people to walk their leashed dogs in Heckscher Park. The more people they hear from, the more likely the pilot program will be viewed as successful!

Hon. Chad A. Lupinacci, Supervisor Town Hall (Room 200) 100 Main Street, Huntington, NY 11743 Phone: (631) 351-3030

Hon. Joan Cergol, Councilwoman Town Hall (Room 303) 100 Main Street, Huntington, NY 11743 Phone: (631) 351-3173

Hon. Eugene Cook, Councilman Town Hall (Room 303) 100 Main Street, Huntington, NY 11743 Phone: (631) 351-3174

Hon. Mark Cuthbertson, Councilman Town Hall (Room 303) 100 Main Street, Huntington, NY 11743 Phone: (631) 351-3172

Hon. Edmund J.M. Smyth, Councilman Town Hall (Room 303) 100 Main Street, Huntington, NY 11743 Phone: (631) 351-3175

Thank you for your support!

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