Tails were wagging and paws were sprinting as representatives from the Town of Oyster Bay cut the ribbon on a new dog park at Centre Island Beach in Bayville on Oct. 16. Roughly 30 dogs and their owners went to the ceremony, and it was tough to tell who was more excited, the humans or their canine companions.
The dog park is the first of its kind on the town’s North Shore, with the only other park in the town where dogs can run free in Massapequa. However, the town has made a concerted effort to make recreational areas more accessible to dogs, as over a dozen of its parks now have small parklets where owners can bring their leashed pets.
A $100,000 grant from the state made the dog park possible, due in large part to the efforts of Bayville residents Joe Russo and Jen Jones. Big dog-lovers, Russo said they felt the village needed a place where dogs and their owners could socialize in a welcoming environment. Jones drew up a plan for a dog park at Ransom Beach and brought them to the town’s Parks and Recreation department in March of 2018. After a few subsequent meetings from there, the town reached out to State Sen. Jim Gaughran, a Democrat from Northport, for funding, and the state agreed to provide the grant.
On why people pushed for a dog park, Russo said, “Basically, our love for dogs and the fact that this community needed a dog park.”
“It’s a huge attraction to the village, and it’s a long time overdue,” said Bayville Mayor Bob De Natale. “Although I’m not a dog owner, I’m very sympathetic and supportive of places like this park to be designated specifically for the dogs.”
Also at the ribbon cutting was Peggy Heijmen, vice president and board member of the Long Island Dog Owners Group, a non-profit dedicated to making Long Island’s parks more dog-friendly. She said her group provided support and advice for Jones and Russo as they advocated for the park.
“For us, it’s fabulous,” Heijmen said. “Every time we see dogs playing in a park, walking on a leash or playing off-leash, it’s thrilling for us because it was an uphill battle for a long time, and to see things coming together [and] a cultural change throughout the Town of Oyster Bay, it’s a wonderful feeling.”
As pleased as the dignitaries and people who played a part in the park’s opening were, perhaps the happiest were those who brought their dogs along for the fun. They couldn’t help but smile as they watched their dogs run, jump and fetch in the open space.
Among the owners were Kerry Shreck and Kathy Meehan, who brought their dogs Tess, a border collie, and Pepper, a Shih Tzu mix. Shreck said it was exciting to see the large turnout for the event. Many of the dogs did not have yards in which they can run at home, she said.
Both owners said they hope the park also enhances their dogs’ social skills. “I just like having them off a leash, because sometimes when you meet up with a dog and they’re both on leashes, they’re more aggressive,” she said. “It’s nice to have an enclosed area. Let them hang out and play.”
Bayville’s John Oddo said he has a spiritual connection to Centre Island Beach, in particular, because he has brought all of his rescued dogs there throughout the years. Many of their ashes were spread at the beach, he said, and he is thrilled to be able to bring his 3-year-old labrador, Cody, to his favorite spot without being asked to leave.
“I love it,” Oddo said. “Without being kicked off, we’re ecstatic. We’ve been fighting for a dog park for over 20 years, and finally, we’ve got one.”