In response to the complaints, the Parks & Recreation Commission has asked the Board of Selectmen to approve a dog leash ordinance for Topstone Park, allowing the town to enforce the existing rule with fines for offenders.
A group of dog owners opposed to passing a new law for the park shared their concerns during the Board of Selectmen's meeting on Monday night.
"We had a very long and productive discussion on the leash law for Topstone Park," First Selectman Natalie Ketchum said Tuesday. "There was some interest from dog owners to come to a compromise decision that might be agreeable to everyone."
"There was agreement that the common areas of the park, such as the driveway and the parking lot, was where it was appropriate for dogs to be a on a leash," Ketchum said. "We’re going to talk to the town counsel about it."
The town attorney will also advise the Board of Selectmen on whether or not to have a hearing process when a fine for a violation is contested, according to Ketchum.
"We will ask him for a draft ordinance for our September 6 meeting," she said.
'Adamantly Against It'
When Pearson Marx and her husband Steve Marks moved to Redding from New York City, they bought a house on a property that abuts Topstone Park.
"On a beautiful day we saw four or five people with dogs throwing sticks in the water," Marx recalled. "I heard a man say, 'Murphy! Good boy!' It was just a beautiful moment. I knew I wanted to be here."
Pearson Marx has four dogs, all rescues. And she loves allowing them to play in the park with her — out in nature, un-restrained by a leash.
Marx estimates that nine-out-of-10 hikers on the trail in a given week are dog owners.
"And nine-out-of-10 are responsible," she said during a telephone interview on Monday. "We see each other at a distance and put our dog on a leash or pull our dog aside on the trail."
Marx said there is an unspoken etiquette among dog owners that when someone leashes their pet, it tells others their dog does not like to play with other dogs. When they don't leash them, it means their dog is friendly and likes to play.
She says people visiting the beach and those who are uncomfortable being around dogs have a right to use the park without having someone's pet running up to them. But Marx prefers having dog owners police themselves.
"Occasionally you get a belligerent oddball, but for the most part everybody is respectful," she said of fellow dog owners.
Of the proposed ordinance, Marx said, "Everyone I approached is adamantly against it."
If the Board of Selectmen passes an ordinance to enforce a leash law, Marx said it should be restricted to the driveway and parking lot, where dog owners and non-dog owners are most likely to come across each other during beach season.
"We want to preserve the privilege where, in natural surroundings, we all can walk our dogs," Marx said. "It would just be great to have one place. You move to Redding because because you love nature."