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Jun 4, 2014 7:13 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Dog Park Opening In Southampton Village

Jun 4, 2014 9:52 AM

In Southampton Village, the dogs will have their day. Sunday, to be exact.

That morning, the eagerly awaited village dog park will open its gates for the first time, and dogs are tugging at their leashes for the chance to run the 1-acre space and play with their fellow canines.

The event will not be small. To commemorate the occasion, a ribbon-cutting led by Mayor Mark Epley will take place at the park at 10:30 a.m., followed by the Southampton Animal Shelter’s annual dog walk fundraiser, and several hundred dogs are expected to be on village streets on Sunday morning.

“We want this to be a simple park for the dogs and their owners to socialize and to better improve the behavior of both,” said Zoe Kamitses, a village resident who first proposed the idea for the park. “It is thrilling for all of us who have worked on the park to finally have it opening. It is one of the best things I have ever done.”

Lola Prentice Park on Windmill Lane, beside the village’s Justice Center, has been converted to the dog park. The fenced-in area has a new 12- to 15-space asphalt parking lot, and will feature a giant red steel sculpture of a dog at the center. The dog, currently named Eddie, was designed by local artist Robert Lohman and can be renamed for a donation of $20,000 that will be used for future park improvements.

The Village Board unanimously approved the park at a board meeting in December after denying a similar request to create a special area for dogs next to Lake Agawam, because of environmental concerns.

This week, Ms. Kamitses said she was inspired to push for a park because she felt there was no place safe to take her two dogs, Phoebe and Charles Dickens. According to Ms. Kamitses, they are great, lovable pets, but she cannot take them to the beach because they get too excited and try to chase joggers, hoping to play with them. The dogs are not trying to hurt anyone, she said, but it is not fair to the joggers.

“I will probably be at the new park twice a day with my lot,” she laughed. “I think it is really great for people who live in the village and want to make sure their dogs are getting properly exercised and have a lot of time to play with other dogs.”

The dog park will be self-policing, but there is a list of 14 rules at the front gate—all dogs must be vaccinated and licensed, puppies under 4 months must be kept out of the park for their own safety, and owners must pick up after canine friends, for example. The park will be open daily from dawn to dusk, and the village has agreed to maintain the grass. There are nine benches for visitors to sit on and clean-up bags for dog waste.

Registration for the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation dog walk starts at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, and more information can be found at southamptonanimalshelter.com.

After the walk on Sunday, people will also be able to celebrate the dog park opening with special events taking place between the park and the police station. WLNG will be broadcasting live from the event, while ice cream and T-shirts will be available for purchase.

The committee to form the dog park is still accepting donations, as they hope to be able to create a designated area within the park for smaller dogs in the future.

This week, Ms. Kamitses said she is excited about the grand opening, adding that it will be a good place for everyone to visit, not just those with dogs. “The park will be open to all dogs and their owners,” she said. “It is for the well-being of the dogs, and we welcome all dogs to utilize the space. We are the Southampton Village Dog Park—we don’t belong to anyone but the people and their dogs.”

Mayor Epley said a lot of people have worked hard for the big day. “I am just happy that we were able to put together something to help,” he said. “It is really thanks to such an enthusiastic group of people that came together and really made this happen.”

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