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Princeton set to open its first – fenced-in and non-fenced in – dog parks on a trial basis

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Princeton is poised to open its own dog parks at the Community Park South and Quarry Park municipal parks, under a pilot program approved by the Princeton Council.

The Princeton Council has designated portions of certain parks – both fenced-in areas and non-fenced-in areas – as dog parks where the pets would be allowed to run off-leash.

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By approving the dog parks, Princeton is joining Lawrence, Montgomery and West Windsor townships in establishing a dog park area in their municipal parks. Also, there is a dog park in Rosedale Park in Hopewell Township, which is part of the Mercer County park system.

Princeton officials are setting up the temporary fenced-in dog park in a corner of Community Park South on playing fields that are not frequently used for active recreation. There will be separate areas for large dogs and small dogs.

The temporary dog park will be in operation for 90 days, but it may be extended at the Princeton Council’s discretion. It will be open from dawn to dusk, but the date that it becomes operational is dependent on the installation of fencing around it, officials said.

A second temporary dog park, which is not fenced in, is being established in Quarry Park. The park is at the end of Spruce Street. Dogs will be permitted off-leash in the park, except in the playground area and on the basketball court, officials said.

The dog park at Quarry Park will be open in the morning from 7-9 a.m. It was expected to open Nov. 1 and will automatically terminate in 90 days. It may be ended sooner, if it is the public interest – such as public safety, officials said.

Dogs that are allowed to run free at Quarry Park must always be under the control of their owner, officials said. Dogs that are deemed aggressive toward other dogs or people will not be allowed at the park.

The dog park at Quarry Park is modeled after an off-leash program in Central Park in New York City, officials said.

Princeton Councilwoman Mia Sacks, who championed the fence-free Quarry Park dog park, said the arrangement has been in place on an informal basis at the park for several years. There are about 20 or 30 dogs off-leash at Quarry Park “on any given morning,” she said.

Sacks said there have been no reports of incidents involving children or other dogs stemming from the informal dog park. If there are any issues, the dog park will be terminated by the town’s animal control officer.

When she lived in New York City, Sacks said she was part of a movement to change the city’s charter to allow off-leash recreational areas for dogs in the city’s parks. It has been a “major success” over two decades, she said.

“I feel very confident that if it works in New York City in all five boroughs, it will work in Princeton. If it doesn’t work out after 90 days, we can pull the plug,” Sacks said.

Once the 90-day trial period has expired, officials will report back to the Princeton Council. They will evaluate the success and viability of the dog parks and make recommendations for future planning for a permanent dog park – both fenced-in and non-fenced-in dog parks.

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