BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ - Even if you couldn't see your way to "Paws Park" during Monday afternoon's warm and sunny summer weather, you could follow your nose to find the township-owned dog run.
The park, located on township land at the far end of War Memorial Field, has had its entrance through the Varsity Field complex located behind the parking lot for the Bernards Township Community Center at 289 S. Maple Ave. in Basking Ridge.
That complex of fields are owned by the Board of Education. And school officials, according to a matter scheduled to come up at Tuesday night's Bernards Township Committee meeting, no longer wants animals entering "Paws Park" through the school-owned property. However, the Township Committee is scheduled to consider a number of options for the future of the park.
That entrance to Paws Park already is blocked off by a large gated area surrounding a large but informally created sign that reads, "Man's Best Friend." (Editor's note: However, the gate can be entered by residents with dogs.) There also are signs on the fence surrounding the field closest to the park saying that dogs are not permitted within.
According to the agenda for the Aug. 12 Township Committee meeting, the school district's concerns about dogs entering Paws Park through the school field complex include the presence of dog excrement on playing fields; pathways and practice areas; the proximity of waste receptacles that produce smells and attract insects; and the possibility of dangerous interactions between student athletes, the fans in the areas, and the dogs.
In response, the Board of Education has formally banned canines from their properties, according to a link on the agenda.
Bernards Township Committee must decide whether to close park
Recognizing that the school board has the right to ban canines from school property, the Township Committee is scheduled to discuss Tuesday whether to relocate the entrance through township property - or to simply close the dog run, as was a recommendation listed on the agenda.
Information on the township website says that the park is located in wetlands, and a new pathways would require the township to hire a professional for a wetlands deliniation report. Whether the state would even grant such a permit is not guaranteed.
According to online information, the area on South Maple Avenue also receives much use and does not always have adequate parking depending on the schedule at the community center, fields and other facilities.
The Township Committee does have the option of proceeding with seeking a new entrance to the park, or maybe even investigating a new location. The website lists a recommendation that the governing body is due to receive is to officially close the park before school begins on September 4.
Township Administrator says closing park only one option
Township Administrator Bruce McArthur said late Tuesday afternoon that closing the park is only one option that the Township Committee will consider.
The agenda also raises the suggestion of petitioning the Somerset County Park Commission to construct a dog park in the northern part of the county.
The county parks commission already has a "south county" dog park at Colonial Park in the Somerset area of Frankling Township. The parks commission is said to be constructing a "central county" dog park in Bridgewater, the agenda says.