“Everybody Belongs Here” also includes people who don’t want to share public parks with dogs.
South Orange Trustee Deborah Davis Ford invoked the town’s current motto “Everybody Belongs Here” on Monday night, October 8, in support of keeping some small parks in South Orange off limits to dog owners, even as the Township looks to open up other parks to dogs on leashes.
Dogs will continue to be restricted from playgrounds, basketball courts, tennis courts, baseball infields and the town pool (except in the case of a post-season dog day event). Residents will continue to face fines if they do not clean up after their dogs.
The hearing brought many passionate individuals to the microphone during public comments. One resident warned Trustees that dogs in parks would present a health risk to children, while another said the move would do the opposite — helping children build healthy immune systems.
One commenter told of how a potential resident chose to move to Maplewood instead of South Orange after finding out about the ban on dogs in parks, while another family was moving to West Orange. Another commenter countered that she knew a resident who had chosen South Orange because of its ban on dogs in parks.
A commenter from Maplewood who is a professional dog walker noted that parks were open to dogs in Maplewood an no-one seemed to be suffering adverse effects.
The pro-dogs-in-parks commenters outnumbered those against by approximately 8-3 (one commenter seemed not to like any option, saying dogs were running amok in parks already anyway) — but that wasn’t the point ultimately, said Trustees and Village President Sheena Collum.
A compromise was reached to accommodate those residents looking for a dog-free park experience: Ordinance 2018-30 was struck and Ordinance 2018-33 was introduced, retaining all the language of the first ordinance but continuing the ban on dogs in Farrell Field, Founders Park and Carter Park.
The new ordinance was introduced by a vote of 4 in favor — including Collum — one against (Howard Levison), one absent (Karen Hilton) and one abstaining (Walter Clarke).
A second reading, hearing and vote on the ordinance will take place on November 26.