There were a few bumps along the way, but Valley Stream’s dog park has made it to its first anniversary. The park opened to the public last May 5 and, after a slow start, has become a hit with local dog owners.
According to Deputy Village Clerk Richard DeAngelis, more than 150 dog owners have registered to use the park, located at the Village Green adjacent to the Long Island Rail Road tracks. He expects the number of members to increase now that the weather is warming up. “I think now as we’re going through the spring and the summer, and we’re going to see more people on the Green,” he said, “you’ll see it start to rise.”
When the dog park opened, it had a surface of large rocks. Within a few months, village officials began making plans to replace it because the park was being lightly used. Dogs and their owners did not enjoy the uneven surface.
It was eventually shut down for a few weeks in the fall and artificial turf was installed on top of the rocks. Leaders say that was the change needed to help the park take off.
Richard Infield, president of Friends of the Valley Stream Dog Park, a non-profit group which supports the facility, said the park’s membership has more than doubled since the new surface was put down. He said even in winter, new people were signing up to use the park.
“It’s great that it’s a really well utilized facility,” Infield said. “The dogs love it. The owners love it. That’s what I was looking for when we first started lobbying for it.”
Michele Wallach said she brings her 11-year-old Labrador mix, Samantha, to the park at least once or twice a month. She said that she does much more frequently since the surface changed. “The rocks were terrible for her paws,” Wallach said, “but the turf is great.”
Infield said that many Valley Streamers have gotten a chance to meet for the first time because of the dog park. “Not only do your dogs have fun but you make new friends,” he said, adding that the dogs become friends, too.
He noted that there are even groups of people who go at the same time so they – and their dogs – can see each other.
For the most part, Infield said there is a general camaraderie among dog owners. He did not one instance a few months ago when one dog was attacked by another. Blood was drawn, Infield said, but the dog was not seriously injured. He also said the situation was addressed by officials from the village.
Beyond that, he said there have been no other serious incidents at the park. He said the feedback from dog owners has been very positive.
Wallach said that while her dog is older and doesn’t play as much as younger pups, Samantha does enjoy sitting on the bridge and sniffing around. She would like to see some additional features added to the park, such as doggy pool.
Infield said he would like to add more features to the park, including shaded space in the small dog area and a security system.
The Friends group is still working to become a registered not-for-profit agency so it can begin fundraising. Infield said he would like to host at least one major fundraiser each year, with money going to support the dog park.
Dog owners can sign up to use the park and become a member of the Friends group at an anniversary event planned for May 11 at the park. There will be several pet-related vendors and rescue groups on hand.
DeAngelis said that the village is trying to reach out to dog owners to let them know about the dog park. He said when renewal applications were sent out for all dog licenses, information about the facility was also included.
Like Infield, DeAngelis said he hears good things about the park, and not just from residents of Valley Stream, as many people notice it when riding on the train. “When people are saying I wish my village and town had that,” he said, “you know you’re doing something good.”