Montclair Council Considers Proposal For Off-Leash Dog Hours At Edgemont Park

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The Montclair Township Council received reports from residents and public employees on, respectively, parks and technology at its October 9 meeting.  Only three legislative items were passed, including an agreement for use of a street sweeper in Montclair Center, a grant application submission for improvements to Trinity Place and Myrtle Place, and a resolution that could but not necessarily will change protection drug coverage for Montclair employees.

the Montclair Township Council

The council heard from citizens expressing interest in allowing dog owners to let their dogs run free in a temporarily designated area in Edgemont Park during off-hour periods.  Residents Cary Chevat and Leland Montgomery suggested this could foster a sense of community among dog owners and also make the dogs themselves calmer and more sociable.  Chevat and Montgomery said dog owners could congregate and trade information about veterinary services, and their presence would make the park safer by sheer numbers, benefitting other residents using it either late at night or early in the morning.  It would also allow dogs to exercise and interact with each other, benefitting their overall well-being.  An off-hour period between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. is being proposed for a six-month trial period.

Chevat and Montgomery said a similar program was tried in New York City in parks where dog parks are not provided, and the use of these parks during nighttime off-hours saw an increase of people using the parks at those times and contributed to an overall sense of safety.  They envisioned a similar positive effect on Edgemont Park.

Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager, whose ward includes Edgemont Park, asked if a temporary fence was being considered for the proposed dog exercise area.  Chevat and Montgomery said they didn’t see a need for that, noting that dogs usually stay together in packs, and that owners with roaming dogs would be discouraged. 

Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville asked if dogs’ registrations would be checked.  Chevat and Montgomery said they weren’t interested in policing canine activity during such a period, and they emphasized that this would most likely not be necessary, as dog owners tend to be greatly responsible for their pets.

Chevat and Montgomery said they had consulted with the county, which recently opened a dog park in North Caldwell, about the idea, but members of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee (PRAC) were not happy that they had not been previously consulted.  William Scott, a PRAC member, said the committee received no information about the idea, and he said PRAC wanted to make sure they would be able to advise the council on the issues. Mayor Robert Jackson said this was the first time the council had heard about it, and he said he understood that this was only an idea being voiced, not a plan being decided on. Chevat and Montgomery, for their part, said there was never any intent to bypass the process of putting a proposal forward for use of a public facility.

Scott asked Chevat if he could have the information on the dog exercise area idea before the next PRAC meeting on October 11.  Chevat said there would be no problem in that regard.

Meanwhile, Fire Chief John Hermann and Montclair Information Technology Director Tony Fan, the township’s technology expert, briefed the council on plans to expand the township’s technological footprint.  One idea is to use credit card machines and payment apps to make it easier to pay municipal fees and fines.  With regards to the fire department,  Chief Hermann said his department was in the process of getting a new communications system that allows updates to be shared by firemen on the road to make them more effective in firefighting.

The fire department is also pursuing the use of emergency drones to get real-time information on fires and also to go into the fires themselves with infra-red sensors to determine the exact location of a fire in a building and get a reading of the heat generated.  Councilor-at-Large Robert Russo balked at the idea of drones being all over Montclair, but Chief Hermann said they would be strictly regulated and used only in emergencies; Township staffers are getting extensive Federal Aviation Administration-mandated training, including Deputy Planning Director Graham Petto.  Deputy mayor / Third Ward Councilor Sean Spiller was glad to hear from Fan that the various information systems were being integrated in a cost-effective way.

The council considered a resolution authorizing the township’s civil employees to take part in a prescription drug plan under the state health benefits program.  Acting Township Manager Tim Stafford said the township’s insurance consultants recommended that Montclair join the plan.  The resolution does not require Montclair to join the plan but instead gives it the right to enter into it before January 1, 2019, allowing civil employees to have the same coverage that police and fire employees currently have.  Manager Stafford said a gross savings of $750,000 was possible, with the savings divided between the employees and the township.   Mayor Jackson said he had heard of no complaints from police and fire employees about the plan, but Dr. Baskerville pointed out that some civil employees may have more need for prescription drugs than policeman and firemen, who are by nature healthy in order to respond to the rigors of their jobs.  She said she would need more information before she could support the state plan. Manager Stafford reiterated that the resolution only gives the town the right to enter into the plan, which has been presented to twin employees, as opposed to requiring it to join.  Satisfied that she would be able to see the information on the plan in greater detail, Dr. Baskerville voted with the rest of the council to approve the resolution.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. My family and I love dogs, cats, horses, and virtually every other pet! We currently have two Golden Retrievers, but have always had dogs ever since moving to Montclair in 1984.

    But the one thing we have against dog OWNERS is their reluctance, and sometimes deliberate actions to let their dogs off-leash whenever they feel like. Some have told us “it’s “cruel” to keep a dog on a leash!

    But here’s the deal:

    1. I can’t tell you just how many stories where off leash dog owners have told others, including children, that the dog is friendly, but the dog bites the adult or child anyway!

    2. My dogs are ALWAYS on leash! I, my family, and others have been knocked off their feet or dragged and hurt when I hold on with dear life while my dog lunges or runs after un-leashed dogs.

    3. Eventually, your off leash dog is going to run into the street. When that happens either the dog will be injured (and if you’ve ever had to bring your dog off hours to a hospital you’ll also remember the cost!), or there will be an accident, which damage and injuries, as a cars swerves to avoid the off leash dog.

    It is WRONG to not keep your dog on a leash at all times when you’re in public.

    It is ILLEGAL to not keep your dog on a leash at all times when you’re in public. Look at this from Montclair’s Code 82-13:

    “No person owning or having the control, custody or possession of a dog shall permit or suffer such dog to run at large or to go or be upon the public streets, sidewalks or other public places within the Township unless said dog shall be on a leash and in the custody of some person or persons capable of controlling such dog.”

    and

    “Any person who violates any provision of § 82-13 or 82-18 shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished by a fine not exceeding $2,000, imprisonment in the county/municipal jail for a term not exceeding 90 days, or a period of community service not exceeding 90 days, or any combination thereof as determined by the Municipal Court Judge. Each day on which a violation of an ordinance exists shall be considered a separate and distinct violation and shall be subject to imposition of a separate penalty for each day of the violation as the Municipal Court Judge may determine.
    [Amended 5-12-1981 by Ord. No. 81-24; 11-29-1983 by Ord. No. 83-47; 5-23-2000 by Ord. No. 00-19; 4-10-2007 by Ord. No. 07-17]”

    I think Robin Schlager’s suggestion of a fenced in and controlled dog park in Edgemont is excellent.

    But I think the public should be DEMANDING that the current law should be enforced with ZERO tolerance.

    In my own experience, Montclair has MANY good Ordinances to protect it’s residents! Now all that needs to be done is for the Town to ENFORCE these Ordinances

    Cary Africk
    2nd Ward Council Member (now retired to non public crankiness)

  2. Here’s my response to The Deal:

    YPT 1.) I can’t tell you how many stories I heard about children hurting other humans, abusing animals and their shocked “owners” swearing this has never happened before. Then some of these children grow up to be serve on the Supreme Court or as the POTUS. Most dogs in Montclair are under-socialized and under-exercised. That’s the issue to address.

    YPT 2.) Clearly your leashed dogs are too big for your family to handle. I’m serious here. Maybe adopt some seniors if you are going for size. Further, I see 70-80 lb kids walking 50-60 lb dogs…all the time…impossible to control under the circumstances you describe. So, let’s cite those parents/caregivers. And if Montclair has available policing capacity, I would direct it to the higher priority of dangerous human offenses on our roadways.

    YPT 3.) Absolutely no temporary fence. This can only lead to a permanent fence. The pressure to build-out our parks is ongoing. Edgemont already has playground equipment, playing fields, senior center & expanded parking lot, and “double-wide” asphalt pathways, etc. What’s the line between adding more fixed uses and open space?

    Overall, this proposal is not well thought-out, hence the trial, too. Edgemont is not a good choice. There are better options throughout town.

    I would say there are quite a few households with dogs. There is an undeserved need to socialized and exercise these dogs, at minimal cost, to achieve a clear publican benefit – well-adjusted dogs.

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