Dog owners were rankled this week after Brigantine officials padlocked the only park where pets could run free in the resort town.
City Manager Jennifer Blumenthal said City Council approved the closing of the park at 42nd Street because of noise complaints by neighbors. But the move angered dog owners, who pay $35 per year to use the enclosed area.
"I fully understand council taking the heat on this, but padlocking it without making preparations for an alternative seems really drastic to me," said Janice Saudargas, 66, who helped organize the park in 2008.
The whole reason for designating the dog park, she said, was because in the summer there are no other beaches or parks where dogs can run or socialize on the island.
Blumenthal said residents from a neighboring condominium and a youth football program that practiced near the park had complained.
"The fence is right below some of these people's windows," she said. "When they first put in the dog park, (the city) told them it'd be a temporary location. It's been six years and they haven't moved."
City Council is exploring alternatives, she said, and in the meantime will refund the approximately 100 permits it had sold to dog owners. The city has issued about 500 permits since the park opened. If a suitable replacement park isn't found, she said, the city also may return the $20,000 donation two residents, Ron and Sandy Weiss, made to create the 42nd Street park.
Ron Weiss, 54, of Medford, Burlington County, said city officials assured him Friday the closing isn't permanent and that, in time, the park will be relocated.
"As long as the dog park continues on, which I have no reason to believe it won't, I'm fine with that," said Weiss, who also owns a home in Brigantine.
Blumenthal said one alternate location is a parcel adjacent to the Community Center. The council will consider that site - which would cost about $15,000 to prepare as a dog park - at its July 17 meeting.
"What was discussed (Wednesday) was to find ways to gather donations," she said, including possible advertising or business sponsorships.
Walter Hansen, who brought his 10-year-old husky, Siber, to the park, said the closing came out of left field. Younger dogs, in particular, needed the park the city unceremoniously closed.
"It was good for the dogs to get to play with each other and run around," he said. "If you keep them on a leash, they're not burning off energy."
Hansen, 55, said the way the park was closed is most upsetting. The dog owners were given no notice, he said.
"To me, they really came through the back door," he said.
Saudargas said she's familiar with the alternate site the city is proposing and doesn't think it would work.
"It's a barren lot - no trees, no shade," she said. "And it would take months to prepare."
The city should have lined up a site before closing the old dog park, Saudargas said. Right now, dog owners have no place else to go. Saudargas said she and many other dog owners plan to bring their grievances to City Council to seek a better solution.
"I'm like a dog with a bone," Saudargas said. "I'm not going to give up on this."
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