BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ - It's time for township dogs to break out a celebratory bone or two: "Paws Park," a patch of grass dedicated to local canines and their owners at the far end of War Memorial Field off South Maple Avenue, will remain open.
However, the park, located on Bernards Township-owned land at the far end of War Memorial Field, is getting a new entrance via a path along one of the multi-purpose fields. The township will no longer allow access to the park from the previous entrance through the school system's Varsity Field complex located behind the parking area for the Bernards Township Community Center at 289 S. Maple Ave.
Township Administrator Bruce McArthur said after Tuesday's Township Committee meeting that the grass path already had been used by maintenance personnel. A dispenser of plastic bags already has been put up so dog owners can clean up after their pets. A trash can also is scheduled to be put up by the new entrance, and the sign outlining rules and regulations for the township dog park is due to be relocated.
After hearing the Township Committee's decision on Tuesday, some dog owners expressed their happiness that the matter had been settled, and quickly.
"This is something we need," Jamie Casale said of the dog park. She said the dog owners who have approached the committee on Tuesday would help pitch in to make sure that other dog owners follow rules about keeping their dogs leashed while approaching the park, and also cleaning up, as well as keeping the pets off playing fields.
According to the agenda for the Aug. 12 meeting, the school district's concerns about dogs entering Paws Park through the school field complex behind the township Community Center off South Maple Avenue included 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.
After being approached by multiple dog owners at that meeting, the Township Committee members and officials present that night promised to keep the park open while investigating other possibilities.
Some supporters of the park on Aug. 12 pointed out that dog owners also pay taxes that support the schools, and they would like a share of local tax money for something that's important to them.
"What a benefit it is to have a dog park," said Jeff Dixon, who said she has been walking a new puppy there. Other dog owners said that they had met many friends at the park, and the dogs also loved going there.