by Barrett Seaman
“So what do you hear?” asked Leila, still panting from a chase around a field that, under ground rules for speaking to The Hudson Independent, cannot be named. It had been almost seven months since Irvington’s dogs had heard much about the campaign to build a dog park in the village for them to run around off-leash.
“People aren’t happy with the Irvington Woods site, up behind the reservoir, it turns out,” said Blue, a Chocolate lab. “Something else is going on.”
“My owner has been spending a lot of time writing emails to people, trying to drum up support for putting it in Matthiessen Park, down by the river, instead,” tossed in Becket.
“A lot of owners want that,” offered Will, looking up at the larger dogs. “I heard that 125 people signed a petition asking for the Recreation & Parks Committee to reconsider putting it in the Woods and to look at Matthiessen again.”
“It was on television,” said Skywalker breathlessly. “I saw it: a bunch of people sitting behind a table looking out at a lot more people sitting in chairs and raising their hands every once in a while.”
“I watched it,” allowed Becket. “My mom was there at that meeting, but she was also right there with me. It was confusing,” he confided. “It’s on one of those Government Access stations. You can watch it yourself.”
“Not all the people who signed the petition were dog owners who want it in Matthiessen,” cautioned Daisy. “A lot just don’t want it in the Woods, where the Recreation & Parks people have it—I guess because they think we’d ruin what they see as a special place that should remain pristine.”
“I love those Woods,” declared Nelson, his ears shooting up. “There’s a big rock you can dive off into the reservoir and fetch sticks…”
“That’s the problem,” scolded Kava, a mere pup. “You’re not supposed to swim, and if they put the park there, you still wouldn’t get to swim. In fact, you’re not supposed to be off-leash anywhere in Irvington.”
“Bummer,” said Nelson, his ears back in place.
“Yes, added Otto, “I heard the mayor talk about getting emails from people who said they’d been attacked by off-leash dogs in the Woods. Then there is that story of a friendly dog licking the hand of a woman whose child is allergic to dogs, so she had to run to her car to get an epi-pen. It makes us all look bad.”
“At that meeting on television, they said that a Mrs. Coddington, who used to be a mayor, was going to take over the Recreation & Parks Department’s Woods Committee,” said Becket. “She stood up and said that her first priority would be to get us all on leashes.”
“All the more reason we need a dog park,” said Nelson glumly.
“Yeah, so at that meeting, three people stood up and made a case for putting the dog park in the northeast corner of Matthiessen—away from the river where people picnic and closer to the railroad tracks,” reported Coconut, adding somewhat smugly: “One of them was my owner. He pointed out that the park already has water and toilets and that it’s under-utilized as it is.”
“Did you hear what my mom said?” interjected Becket, clearly anxious to impress the others. “She said ‘if you don’t have webbed feet and feathers, you’re not likely to be seen there.’ There are lots of geese…”
“Yes, I got that,” said Will impatiently. “Too many—which is why golf courses have dogs like us to chase the geese away. We could do the same at Matthiessen.”
“But that Mr. Archino, the guy in charge, said the geese come right back as soon as the dogs are gone,” said Chloe.
“Yes,” said Zoe. “I heard my owner say that Mr. Archino seems to have a negative answer for every argument in favor of Matthiessen—that a dog park would interfere with families having picnics; that we’d pee on the trees and kill them; that passing trains would scare us; that people in wheelchairs couldn’t get down the steep slopes…”
“Wait a minute,” interrupted Hudson. “People in wheelchairs can’t get down there, whether there’s a dog park or not.”
“The point is,” persisted Zoe, “he just seemed interested in knocking down any argument in favor of using Matthiessen.”
“Maybe,” conceded Otto, “but he did agree to meet with anyone who wanted to tour Matthiessen Park and discuss possible sites. And a lot of people said yes. A bunch of them went down there the next Saturday morning (without any of us, of course, since dogs are not allowed). A Mr. Zwiebel had chalked off an area of about an acre to show where he thought a dog park would work and not interfere with picnics and such.”
“He’s the one on television who pointed out that Sleepy Hollow has a dog park that didn’t cost much and works pretty well,” said Coconut. “And he said that of the 60 Scenic Hudson parks along the river, only Irvington’s doesn’t allow dogs. Can you imagine?”
“So now, it’s all about Matthiessen?” asked Ella. “It’s got to be pretty frustrating to have all these people suddenly against the Woods after being quiet for so long. I heard my owner say he wished people had spoken up before he and others had done all the work, raising and spending about $2,000 in private money on a consultant and other stuff. If they want to start over again, where’s the money going to come from?”
Where does this go from here?” asked Anton, who is from Hastings but spends a lot of time on the Aqueduct in Irvington.
“Apparently, the Rec Committee voted to start letting us into Matthiessen Park, starting in December,” said Buddy.
“Yeah, but only on leash; only from 7 to 9 in the morning on weekdays; only for three months, until the end of February, and only if our owners buy a permit for $25,” growled Daisy. “Like my owner is going to take me down there on a windy morning in January? I don’t think so.”
“Designed to fail!” barked Blue. “Do you get the feeling Mr. Archino doesn’t want a dog park anywhere?”
“He pretty much said so on television,” said Will. “He said he doesn’t have the staff to maintain it along with all the other parks and programs in the village.”
“This is a problem,” allowed Nelson. “But as one of my owner’s friends said the other day, ‘If this is the biggest problem in Irvington right now, things are pretty good.’”