Following a six-month pilot program allowing dogs in three Town of North Hempstead parks, the town board unanimously voted last week to permanently extend the program and permit resident dog owners to walk their dogs in town parks.
“We want all of our dog owners to have the ability to have a park in North Hempstead that they can bring their dogs,” Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said.
The program allows residents to bring dogs to North Hempstead Beach Park in Port Washington, Michael J. Tully Park in New Hyde Park and Mary Jane Davies Green in Manhasset as long as they are leashed.
Parks Commissioner Jill Weber said during a two-month online survey the town received mostly positive feedback from residents who wanted an extension of the program.
Port Washington resident William Coddington said at the board meeting that he has seen very little monitoring and issuing of tickets for violations of the program.
“I walk the beach at Hempstead Harbor at least once, and sometimes twice, a day, so I am well qualified to tell you there is little to no monitoring,” Coddington said. “I have witnessed unleashed dogs numerous times and can rarely find anyone to report them to.”
He said the survey questions were biased towards dog owners.
While the town has taken initiatives to monitor violators, Weber said there is difficulty in trying to get all residents to obey the law.
“We have worked with public safety. We hired some additional security folks in the summer time to really try and get people to abide by the law,” she said. “Sometimes it doesn’t work as well as we’d like.”
Acting Town Public Safety Commissioner Shawn Brown said code enforcement officers are alerted by park security of violations, but need to physically see the violation to issue a ticket.
“If we find a violation, we will issue a court appearance ticket. They physically must appear,” Brown said. “They can’t pay for a violation by mail, they must appear and discuss the violation.”
He added that the court will determine the fine on a case-by-case basis.
Town Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio suggested more clear signage alerting residents to what they can receive a violation for once they enter any of the three parks.
While the program was made permanent, Bosworth said, the town would continue to look for improvements
“We will continue to work to make sure there is enforcement,” she said.