Naugatuck park plan a go

NAUGATUCK — Dog owners in the borough will soon have a place to let their four-legged friends run free.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses unanimously approved using leftover state grant funds from previous projects to build a roughly 3-acre fenced-in dog park, walking trails and a community garden on a parcel of borough-owned land on Andrew Mountain Road.

The parcel is approximately 146 acres. Of that land, there are 33 acres that can be used by the town for active open space, Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said.

“There is plenty of room. It’s a beautiful flat area,” Hess said.

The rest of the land has a conservation easement on it and will only be used for hiking trails, Hess said.

“We have some beautiful ponds on this site. So not only can you go to the dog park, you can walk to and from the trails. One of the trails, when it’s completed, if you want you can walk all the way down to the [Naugatuck] State Forest and down to the Naugatuck River and back through that beautiful gorge on the Beacon Falls Naugatuck border,” Hess said.

Hess said the fence for the dog park will cost approximately $50,000, which will come from unused money in the borough’s Local Capital Improvement Program grant. The borough currently has approximately $200,000 of unused money in the account from the previous five years and is expecting to receive a $250,000 grant this year, Hess said.

“So whatever we spend on the dog park will come out of that account. It will not come out of this year’s budget or next year’s budget,” Hess said.

All the work at the park will be done by borough employees, Hess said.

The park’s creation drew some controversy in January. Resident Michael Stopa, a Republican who ran for burgess in November, started an online petition asking officials to not move forward with any future parks until the borough is in better financial shape and does a better job of taking care of current parks.

The plan drew only praise Tuesday night from several members of the public who addressed the board.

Resident Samantha Stirk said she currently brings her dog to the Southbury dog park and will typically stop by restaurants in that town afterwards. Stirk said a dog park in the borough would help attract people who will be more likely to go to Naugatuck businesses.

“So we are going to generate money,” Stirk said.

Burgess Rocky Vitale, who has been a proponent of a dog park for many years, spoke highly of the park’s creation.

“I really look at this as a park for people who just happen to own dogs,” Vitale said. “I think it’s time to stop the negative that’s been talked about for so long and talk about the positive in Naugatuck. I think this, between the community garden, the walking trails, and the dog park, is a very positive thing.”

Burgess Carl Herb, who used to coach the Naugatuck High School cross country team, said the team could start using that land, rather than Hop Brook Park in Middlebury, as its home course.

“I think, with the trails and the beautiful scenery up there, that is the perfect place to bring our high school cross country boys and girls,” Herb said.

Hess said the land, which used to be a field for cattle, is almost completely ready to be turned into a park and expects work to begin soon.

“Having been there recently I have to say the walking trails and the beauty of the land up there is incredible and far beyond what I would have imagined,” Hess said. “It’s a great place. It’s a great asset for the town and I am glad we are going to be using it.”