WOODLAND PARK, NJ - The Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders are in the planning stages for a number of improvements at Rifle Camp Park. One of the plans is to construct a dog park.

Rifle Camp Park, located in a section of Garret Mountain off of Rifle Camp Road, consists of 192 acres of mostly woods and green space, and is a haven for hikers and birdwatchers. However, officials say much of the area is underused by residents. Dogs had also been banned from the area but would be lifted if the dog park is constructed.

A grant in the amount of $25,000 aims to change that. County Freeholders recently applied for the grant funds to build the dog park from PetSafe, a company that manufactures electronic pet supplies. It is awarding five grants this year for new dog parks through the "Bark for Your Park" program.

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According to Passaic County Freeholder Director Sandi Lazarra, the idea behind the upgrades is to make county parks more amenable to the diverse population of Passaic County, recreation and the Open Space Master Plan, adopted by the Board of Chosen Freeholders in 2014. 

"The project is still in the beginning phases of planning a number of improvements with a contract awarded earlier this year to an engineering firm to begin designing construction documents," said Lazarra. "As such, the concepts and amenities to be included are at their infancy stage. The county is exploring these new and restored amenities to attract new visitors to Rifle Camp Park, as it is one of the least visited parks within the Passaic County Park System. We are confident that this multi-million dollar restoration will accomplish the two-fold goals of protecting Rifle Camp's eco-system while providing new recreational activities to Passaic County residents."

Aside from a dog park, other upgrades planned for Rifle Camp Park's Phase 1 Improvement Projects include repairing existing bathrooms, construction of a new pavilion, creating a small sledding area, restoring the basketball court, restoring the par exercise equipment, installing new playground equipment, removing the toboggan run, creating a 5K race loop, restoring cross country skiing trails, developing new scenic views, and installing the dog park. Additionally, an 18-hole disc golf course and pond ice skating are also being considered. 

In addition to the grant from PetSafe, other funding for the project would come the Passaic County Open Space Farmland & Historic Preservation funding. The county also applied for a $20,000 grant for the from the Horizon Foundation through the Friends of the Passaic County Park, Inc., a non-profit organization, for the proposed disc golf course.

Some controversy has stemmed from the planned dog park. Citizens opposed to the idea say placing a dog park at Rifle Camp is highly inappropriate as they say it will negatively impact the unique ecosystem currently within the park. They also say that it is a wetland habitat that is densely forested as an Audubon State IBA/designated important bird area, due to migratory species stopping over between their fly routes.

The site is also a landmark because it was an encampment area for Gen. George Washington's troops, in which the county set up markers for the area in 2009.