"I've never been a dog person. I don't go to Ward Acres because I feel uncomfortable being around them. Isn't it
unfair to allow free access to Ward Acres for dogs, when there are plenty of people who are intimidated by them?"
Even though we love our pets and enjoy meeting all the various dogs that come to
Ward Acres with their families, we completely understand that not everyone is comfortable around dogs. That is why we are
proposing a fair compromise: ALTERNATING on-leash/off-leash days. One way to implement this proposal would be to declare EVEN
days of the month on-leash days (or no-dogs-at-all days!) and ODD days off-leash days. That way, the dogs of New Rochelle
will be able to get plenty of exercise, but people who are not comfortable being around unleashed dogs would also be able
to enjoy the park several days a week, at whatever time suits them.
That said, we encourage all people—dog
lovers or not—to visit Ward Acres during off-leash hours. The park is so large that there are more than enough acres
for all of us! We think you’ll find that even if there are dogs unleashed in the park, you can avoid them very easily.
Dogs will stick by their owners or explore the brush where humans never walk. It is easy to keep away from them—and
other people!—if what you crave is a solitary walk through the woods.
Also, it is important to note that responsible dog owners, like those who frequent
Ward Acres, are sensitive and respectful of other people’s needs and comfort levels. You can ALWAYS ask a dog owner
to please hold their dog aside as you pass. We want Ward Acres to be a place that EVERYONE in New Rochelle can enjoy. We are
so lucky to have such a unique public space—a veritable wilderness in the middle of our bustling metropolis!
As a final note, we believe that allowing off-leash dogs and their families access
to Ward Acres provides an immeasurable benefit to the New Rochelle community at large. Having the freedom to exercise off-leash
in a large, wilderness space is an incredibly healthy experience, both mentally and physically, for all dogs. Learning how
to play and interact with other dogs and people is also a vital life skill that is taught and honed in the dog community at
Ward Acres. Needless to say, healthy, well-adjusted dogs make better friends and neighbors. Even if you’re not a dog-owner
yourself, your neighborhood surely benefits if the Golden Retriever next door and the Great Dane down the block are exercised
regularly at Ward Acres!
"Isn't Ward Acres dirty and gross with all those dogs running around pooping?"
Dog owners who frequent Ward Acres are diligent
about picking up after their dogs (typically, there is little or no dog waste lying around). In fact, dog owners go even further.
Every Sunday morning, members of the Ward Acres dog community pick up beer cans (around 100! Disgusting!) that have been discarded
in the park, evidently by Saturday night "party-animals." Dog owners also maintain a system of trash bags that drastically
cuts down on litter and detritus on the grounds during the day. We urge you to visit Ward Acres. It is a beautiful, pristine
natural wilderness, largely thanks to the efforts of the dog community. In fact, and unfortunately, Ward Acres is much cleaner
than many other city parks.
"What's wrong with the off-leash hours anyway? Aren't the city's new regulations a reasonable compromise between
the needs of dog owners and the rest of the community?"
The New Rochelle City Council has limited
off-leash dog hours to early mornings before 10am and to late afternoons after 4 in winter (or 5 in spring and summer months)
- BUT NO MID-DAY OR AFTERNOON HOURS ON ANY WEEKENDS OR HOLIDAYS. Needless to say, these times are extremely inconvenient for
any typical, busy New Rochelle family. The early mornings are spent shuffling children off to school and the late afternoons
are occupied with dinnertime, homework and extracurricular activities. And it is dark shortly after 4pm much of the year!
The fact that there are no afternoon hours, even on the weekends, makes it impossible for many families--like Lulu's--to enjoy
Ward Acres together, as has been a longstanding, joyful family tradition.
A true compromise would be to adopt a proposal such as ours: ALTERNATING on-leash/off-leash days.
We welcome any suggestions as to fair compromises. We are interested in sharing Ward Acres with the entire New
Rochelle community. We just think it unfair and unwise to effectively shut dogs and their families out of the one city park
where dogs can run off-leash.
Do the user fees make any sense?
New Rochelle residents already pay
a $12 fee to register their dogs and attest to their vaccinations. The Ward Acres fee duplicates this and at $50 is way out
of line compared to other park user fees. For example, $70 gets you unlimited access to numerous well-maintained tennis complexes.
The Ward Acres $50 gets you only a few hours per day off-leash in one park, and the least usable hours at that. A $31 OmniCard
covers unlimited access to six parks. In addition, there is no "family rate" for multiple dog-owning residents or non-residents.
The non-resident fee of $250 for use of the park is way out of line and quite possibly illegal. Under the NY State
Conservation Law, which governs use of Ward Acres, the City of New Rochelle is not allowed to limit access to the Acres by
non-residents. This prohibitively expensive fee looks like it could be considered a "de facto" limitation.
Of course, the glaring question is: Why is the City Council voting to penalize dog owners? Surely it is in the
best interest of New Rochelle and the surrounding towns to foster communities of healthy, well-adjusted dogs. The punitive
fees and restrictive hours send a thoroughly anti-dog and anti-dog-owning message. Is this kind of pointless discrimination
really what New Rochelle should stand for?
“Don’t dogs and dog owners make up a relatively small percentage of the population of New Rochelle?”
Who knows! The New Rochelle City Council spent $75,000 of taxpayers’ money on the Vollmer Report to
study Ward Acres. But it’s unclear if the study included any hard data on who uses Ward Acres now (and in what numbers)
and who is likely to use it under the new regulations.
Ward Acres is used now by both dog owners and people without dogs. There are certainly more than enough acres
for all of us! We urge the City to adopt a fair on-leash/off-leash policy and then actually do some research to determine
who is using the park, how Ward Acres might better serve the community, and how the New Rochelle community might better serve
our beautiful acres.