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Dog Park

Dog owners like Kevin Harrigan and Taylor Gittin who are watching their dogs Cassie and Ruby play can look forward to using fresh water stations at Selden Dog Park thanks to a grant secured by Town of Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

Dog owners in Brookhaven have something new to bark about, as the Town of Brookhaven received a grant to make improvements to the Selden Dog Park.

Last week, Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) announced the town was one of just 25 local municipalities out of 215 from across the country to receive pet supply manufacturer PetSafe’s annual Bark for Your Park grant — a $10,000 prize. Most of the funds will be used to install new water stations and water fountains inside the dog park, and the rest will go toward minor improvements.

Taylor Gittin and his dog Cassie play at Selden Dog Park. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We have a lot of dog owners that want a place where they can bring their dog who can run around with other dogs who live in the area,” LaValle said. “That’s where this all started — a lot of dog lovers out there who needed a place to go.”

Selden resident Taylor Gittin has already visited the park several times with his 1.5-year-old dog Cassie since recently moving to the area from Chicago.

“There were some parks in the neighborhood, but they were concrete, so its nice that there are trees and she can run on [the sand],” Gittin said of his old park compared to the one in Selden. “A few times coming here I forgot water bottles from home because I’m used to other dog parks having [fountains], so that’s the biggest thing for me [the town could improve on].”

Not including villages and private property, the town currently supports two off-leash dog parks — in Selden and Middle Island. The Selden Dog Park will receive sprinklers, and new plants will help beautify the entrance. Slats will be added to the entrance gate so excited dogs don’t crowd the entrance as new owners enter.

“We’re always looking to save taxpayers money, and going out and getting these grants, whether it’s for infrastructure or parks, is something we really focus in the town because it offsets our costs,” LaValle said. “It’s these little extras that the residents want and the residents need that helps keep the tax bills down. We beat out municipalities from all over the country, so this was a great thing.”

“A few times coming here I forgot water bottles from home because I’m used to other dog parks having [fountains], so that’s the biggest thing for me [the town could improve on].”

—Taylor Gittin

The Bark for Your Park grant began in 2011 as a social media contest that would earn just over 40 applicants PetSafe Brand Marketing Specialist Justin Young said in an email. In 2016, the contest was transformed into a grant-giving campaign. There are 25 grants available in different funding levels — communities building a new park can apply for a $25,000 grant, communities performing maintenance on existing parks can receive $10,000 and communities that desire new equipment can get $5,000 worth of park accessories through park furnishing company Ultrasite, a partner of PetSafe.

“The program is all about finding enthusiastic, pet-loving communities that support green spaces, with civic leaders and community organizations who want to improve their communities and encourage responsible pet ownership,” Young said in the email.

Centereach resident Kevin Harrigan is a regular to the park and takes his three dogs Ruby, Max and Jasper for a walk around Selden almost every day.

“This dog park is a God send,” Harrigan said. “From my perspective, there’s a lot of people like me — I’m in my 60s, I’ve been living in this community for 20 years and I pay my taxes every year. I have three dogs. I can’t bring them in the parks, can’t bring them in school areas. I pay the taxes to pay for all these things and I can’t enjoy any of them. [A good amount] of the population are out here without kids, so for a lot of us, dogs are our kids.”

New dog park will be off Boyle Road

Irene Rabinowitz with her dog, Sydney, at the site of the future dog park in Selden. Photo by Erika Karp

Soon Middle Country dogs and their owners won’t have to travel far for puppy play dates or a walk in the park, as plans for a local dog park are moving forward.

The park, which will be located on a property off Boyle Road, just north of Independence Plaza in Selden and across from Washington Heights Street, could be completed by the end of this year, according to Councilwoman Kathy Walsh (I-Centereach).

Irene Rabinowitz, a Selden resident and the former owner of Barks-n-Bubbles Boutique on Middle Country Road in Centereach, has been a driving force behind the project. In 2011, Rabinowitz created Central Suffolk Paws, a local affiliate of Long Island Dog Owners Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing access to parkland for dogs and their owners.

“You go into this wooded property right off of Boyle Road [and] it’s just so relaxing and peaceful,” Rabinowitz said in a phone interview about the planned site for the dog park.

Walsh said in a phone interview there is money available in this year’s town budget to create a small gravel parking lot and to install fencing for the park, but she was unsure of the project’s total cost. The park will take up about four acres on the northern side of the 10-acre wooded property. Paths that already exist throughout that section will remain for dogs and their owners to roam freely.

Rabinowitz, who owns four dogs including an 11-year-old Australian shepherd named Sydney who needs to stay active, said she has always wondered why there were no dog parks in the central Suffolk area. Last October, Rabinowitz and Sydney completed a 70-mile walk from Centereach to Montauk to raise money and awareness for Central Suffolk Paws and the Arthritis Foundation, Long Island Chapter.

“It is a matter of socialization,” Rabinowitz said about the need for dog parks. “[Sydney] wants to be out there with other dogs and people.”

Brookhaven Town has a few parks for dogs already, including the town’s Middle Island Dog Park, one in Mud Creek County Park in Patchogue and another at the county’s Robinson Duck Farm in Brookhaven hamlet. There are also other dog parks throughout Suffolk County, including the Blydenburgh Dog Park in Hauppauge and East Northport Dog Park in East Northport.

All of these are 20 to 30 minutes away from this community so that’s why we need one here,” said Kevin McCormack, the former executive director of the Middle Country Coalition for Smart Growth, a nonprofit organization working to develop and revitalize the Middle Country community.

McCormack said the idea to create a dog park in Middle Country goes back to when the group was putting together the Middle Country Sustainable Community Plan. In the 2008 community plan, which listed the community’s assets and needs, a dog park was listed as an item the community expressed “significant interest” in.

For the last three months, McCormack said residents involved with the initiative have really tried to move forward with it. A car-wash fundraiser was held recently, and Rabinowitz said she wants to continue to raise funds and hold monthly car washes over the summer. Another fundraiser will be held at the Middle Country Beer Garden in July. Rabinowitz said Central Suffolk Paws is also looking for sponsors for the dog park, with the hope of purchasing things like benches for the park and developing it further.

McCormack said residents could also volunteer to help out, especially on Saturday, May 18, when the Town of Brookhaven will hold its sixth annual Great Brookhaven Clean Up at various locations throughout the town, including the soon-to-be dog park’s location. The property sometimes attracts unwanted visitors, who leave behind alcohol bottles and other trash.

“Volunteers are more than welcome,” McCormack said. “The more we can get [the property] clean, the less we have to rely on the town.”

For updates on the park’s progress or to find out more information, residents can visit the Central Suffolk Paws Facebook group or email cspaws@gmail.com.