By JONATHAN CONNOR
For Union County HAWK
FANWOOD — In a 5-to-1 vote on Monday evening, the Fanwood Council endorsed allowing dogs in borough parks, with some restrictions. Councilwoman Patricia Walsh cast the lone dissenting vote.
Dogs have been banned from the borough’s parks for more than 20 years. According to the newly-adopted ordinance, dogs will be allowed on walking paths and in most common areas but will be prohibited from playing fields, basketball courts, tennis courts and the children’s play area. Dogs must be licensed and kept on a leash, and owners will be required to clean up after them. Several residents presented public comments reflecting both sides of the debate during the ordinance’s public hearing on Monday.
Phyllis Mahoney, a long-time resident of Fanwood, grew up close to Forest Road Park. Ms. Mahoney said she is opposed to amending The Chapter 118 Dogs in Public Parks Ordinance, and cited numerous reports of unleashed dogs running around in the park, which was not only breaking the law but unsafe for the young children on the playground. She also mentioned that in the past, pet owners have not done a good enough job of cleaning up after their dogs.
Carolyn Brink, a Fanwood resident, voiced her support for the proposed bill, which will allow dog walkers access to the parks. Ms. Brink expressed her appreciation to the council for supporting the bill to amend the current ordinance, which “has been an 18- to 19-month process.” Resident Gary Morris also advocated changing the ordinance to allow dog walking in the parks. He mentioned that there are many people who would like to utilize the parks for dog walking but choose to abide by the rules, ultimately preventing good people from enjoying the parks with their dogs.
Council members said they will review the newly-approved dog-walking ordinance every year with the option to rescind it.
In other park news, Recreation Director Bob Budiansky gave a detailed presentation on Monday outlining plans for a new playground at La Grande Park. Plans for the site include new play structures to replace the park’s more outdated features as well as a new rope-climbing structure and a spinning structure for the 8- to 12-year-old age group. The playground also will be given new ground cover and some of the trees will be replaced. Mr. Budiansky mentioned that there will be “an all-inclusive unit for kids with special needs” plus a fun dragonfly amenity. He also discussed play amenities geared to younger children in the 2- to 5-year age group.
Some of the upcoming activities planned for the Fanwood community consist of a Free Movie Series at La Grande Park on Tuesday, July 26; librarians reading books to kids at the Fanwood Memorial Library on Mondays and Wednesdays, and a Hip Hop Dance Camp, plus more from the Fanwood Recreation Department. After about an hour of public hearings, the governing body went into executive session for the remainder of the night. The next regular meeting of the mayor and council will be held on Monday, August 15, at 7 p.m., in the Council Chambers.
The meeting began with a moment of silence dedicated to the Uvalde, Tex., “victims, the children, the teachers, their families, and all [the people] that loved them… and to please keep them in your prayers. May we collectively learn from the tragic mistakes that happened… and never see something like this again,” Mayor Colleen Mahr said.
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