It's a Dog's Park — And It'll Stay That Way

Freeholders say rumors of Berkeley off-leash park closure are simply not true

For more than 10 years, furry residents of Ocean County such as Allee, Scruffy, Cooper and Wolfie have had their own place to romp. To play. To sniff. To bark at the deer.

And to do it without being tethered to their human beings.

In recent weeks, however, rumors spread faster than the twilight bark in "101 Dalmatians" that the park — the Ocean County Off-Leash Dog Facility at Robert J. Miller Airport — was going to be closed.

The humans were upset. Why would the county take something away that is as much a social hour for the people as it is the dogs?

So they came to the county Board of Freeholders meeting on Wednesday, ready to send the freeholders to the doghouse — or at the very least smack them on the nose with a newspaper for doing something so bad.

"I was told by a county employee that it was going to be closed for a new parking lot for the new airfield," said Sandra Baumann of Berkeley Township, who came to the meeting on behalf of a number of the park's patrons. "This is the last thing anyone who's a senior in Ocean County wants to see."

"People were crying when they heard this," she said.

Freeholder John C. Bartlett thanked the residents who came out to the meeting for barking up the right tree.

"We appreciate you coming to find out," Bartlett said.

"I am going to tell you point blank: There are no plans to close the dog park and there never were," said Bartlett, the freeholder board's liaison to the county's parks department. "We do not need any more parking at the airpark."

"We are not closing the dog park," he said. "You have now heard it from the dog's mouth."

The park, which operates year-round from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., is a favorite of many of the residents of the retirement communities in Berkeley and Manchester, said Pat Vezirian, one of the part-time employees who staffs the park.

"They can't fence their yards and some of them have difficulty walking, so this is a way for their dogs to get exercise," she said.

The Berkeley park — there's a second off-leash park at Ocean County Park in Lakewood — has 800 registered dogs, she said, and on weekends as many as 140 dogs use the park over the course of the day. Residents pay a $25 registration fee and must provide a copy of their dog's town license, as well as proof the dog has all its shots and, for male dogs, proof of neutering.

"It's the best $25 I've ever spent," said Lee Manning of Whiting, who says her dog Allee — a beagle mix — comes to the park every day. As Allee darted along the chain link fence barking at a deer that seemed intent on taunting her, Manning said the park is as much a social event as it is a place for the dogs to run and play.

"We'd be lost without the park," said Bill Easton of Whiting, as Wolfie, a husky mix, made the rounds, greeting the humans and the dogs. "If it wasn't for the park, I'd be in my house all day."

Wolfie knows the routine, Easton said. "When we get on the road he's talking up a storm in the car; he knows where we're going."

Even on a rainy day, the regulars come out, tails wagging and smiles greeting friends old and new.

"It's for us as well," said Frank Pelow of Whiting, who has been coming to the park for 10 years. "There's always someone to meet here and talk to."

Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari said the rumor apparently started about three weeks ago, seemingly when a patron said something to a park employee strictly in an attempt to upset the employee.

"It spiraled and went viral," Vicari said. "People love their animals."

"This board has no intention of shutting it down," he said.

And the residents who came to ask about the park were very happy to hear it.

"I'll go home and tell Molly," one said. Molly, of course, is the dog.

Lee Kuchenreuther August 02, 2012 at 03:31 PM
poor sin-dee. what a shame. go to a mall and relax. no dogs there, stupid.
Lee Kuchenreuther August 02, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Hey people! Dog parks are about the DOGS! You wanna socialize? go to a local mall or senior center, a coffee shop or other people place. I have a dog. There aren't too many places we can go together as pals, but somehow we manage. Funny, though, my dog is more social and has more manners than alot of people we have met. She'll never talk back to you, disrespect you and say bad things. All she wants to do is live and enjoy your company. What say you?? What are you so angry about? Geez. Life is short. As a senior you should realize that by now.
NBew Jersey Art August 02, 2012 at 03:41 PM
I agree completely. That's why dogs need to have a facility where they can get the exercise they need such as chasing balls and playing with toys.
Karen Wall August 02, 2012 at 03:41 PM
@NBew Jersey Art, For the record, Bartlett said the two dog parks just about break even. The employees are all part-timers who receive no benefits.
Lee Kuchenreuther August 02, 2012 at 03:47 PM
The dogs figure it out mostly. Its the untrained posessive, worrisome, antisocial, isolated humans that freak out. But to be as vanilla toast as possible, better to err in caution and omit toys. People carry guns now and say mean stuff and have lawyers too! better to go find another empty space and enjoy your dog! alas there aren't many people there. Trust me I know, we don't go to this park, its too small, my lab likes to hike trails or go swimming as much as she loves to meet people and their dogs. She is passive, and we meet aggressive dogs and uncaring don't know what to do about it owners. I don't like vet bills. See you in the State Parks.
Lee Kuchenreuther August 02, 2012 at 03:57 PM
umm, the county is trying to prevent LAWSUITS and keep insurance costs down. Rules usually ( hopefully ) are created to resolve an issue. The other solution: bring 20 balls for all to share. Otherwise there will be competition for the one ball. Ever bring ONE ice cream cone to a kiddie bday party??? What happens? If you are ok with the ensuing battles then deal- otherwise, no balls is a good thing. Its not reasonable to think your one ball and your one dog are just gonna play alone and have no interference. Kids can be taught, not theirs, mind your business. Dogs can too, but will all dog owners train? geez some parents don't!!! If its just me and my dog another story.
NBew Jersey Art August 02, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Lee - over the course of a year we would bring 100 or more tennis balls to the Montville dog park. Everyone who used the park would collect old tennis balls and leave them there. That works. I was not suggesting that there only be one ball. There needs to be dozens and also lots of toys which we also brought to the park and left behind. And as you are no doubt aware, not all dogs chase balls. The majority have no interest. As far as dogs that are agressive, the staff needs to remove them and ban them from the parks, regardless of the reason for the agression. I have seen agressive dogs causing problems whether there was a ball or toy within ten miles. Those dogs have to go and that will prevent lawsuits.
Sherry Kriss-Dillane August 02, 2012 at 04:27 PM
I have yet to go to the dog park. I will eventually try it.. Maybe I will when Blaze comes home. Do we have to register or anything?
Sherry Kriss-Dillane August 02, 2012 at 04:31 PM
And Sin-Dee...I have to wonder why the first part of your name starts with SIN?? And second, I usually keep quiet and calm on here, but when one (supposedly human) attacks (whether it be verbal or physical) that of the animal species, then I have an issue with it. It's seems that you are not an animal lover here? But then again, with words like yours, it seems our best friends are more humane than you and you are more the animal. I would hate to be any kind of animal in your path, but if it does come to that I hope they bite you in your ASS!!!! You are a poor excuse for what we are, although you should be ashamed, I see you have no feelings nor any conscious. I have to say, I don't feel sorry for you at all, I however do feel sorry for those who know you. You must live though a sad life to have such hateful feelings towards those who no matter what will defend us with their own lives. I hope and pray you are not one that abuses them...And if this land belongs to the humans of this township, then why are you here????? Why if you write something so hateful, do you hide behind a fictitious name????
Lenny August 02, 2012 at 04:48 PM
NBew Jersey Art, take your Border Collie over to the field across from the TR Police Station on Oak Ave., he or she will have blast chasing the geese. Keep 'em busy for hours !! I had a border collie that used to chase the horses when I lived in Montville, got kicked once, never even looked at horse again !
Lee Kuchenreuther August 02, 2012 at 05:12 PM
WOW! awesome. I lived in West Milford, and Vernon, and never knew about your park. I have friends there with 3 ( now 2 ) Labs. Aahhh I see, no outside toys, use the ones there. The staff can regulate toys and deal with owners as needed. Otherwise why are they there? Money perhaps?? Anyway, I agree, agressive dogs and their owners need to go. Meanwhile like I mentioned i don't go there. Probably should for doggy social benefit, but for now we hit the other parks. My lab loves to hit walking trails and go swimming.
Lee Kuchenreuther August 02, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Yup. Details at park. Fees, shots and license up to date. Lots of rules.
Sherry Kriss-Dillane August 02, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Lee Kuchenreuther, Thank you soo much!!!
Sherry Kriss-Dillane August 02, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Well Said Tom C.!!! Well said...
enough is enough August 02, 2012 at 05:36 PM
lenny you clearly arent the brightest crayon in the box.
enough is enough August 02, 2012 at 05:39 PM
ironically lenny was the name of the simpleton character in " of mice and men" . can only wonder how the owner of those horses would feel about you letting your dog chase his horses around. i think maybe one of those horses kicked you in the head rather than your dog.
Rob August 02, 2012 at 05:44 PM
I'd like to see them open another park in Toms River where the new animal shelter is being built! It means a lot for dogs to get out and socialize with other dogs and humans. I would think It would also hepl people who are thinking about adopting a pet from there to see how their new pet will act once outside with others ... my 2 cents
E M C August 02, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Surprised at the nasty comments here. Having lived in several diff cities across the country I can tell you that I've noticed that the more sophisticated the city, the more progressive the people that live there... the more dog friendly they are. Austin, San Diego, Colorado Springs, DC. Charlotte NC. The list goes on and on. Having dog parks is a quality of life issue for both dog & owner. Many cities cannot/will not build any high rises w/o providing dog parks as well. It's part of their building codes. I'm glad the dog park will remain. Fido: 1 Ornery closed minded non dog owners: 0
Mike August 02, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Sin-dee... your comment may possibly be the most absurd thing I've ever read here on the patch (and there is surely some idiotic comments, found from time to time). With your attitude, I presume you live a sad sheltered life with no friends (two legged or four). If you don't have a dog or don't like dogs (or their parks) just stay away. Period. What harm has it ever caused you? I, on the other hand, do have a house with a fence... I have two great dogs. And, they are great because they are socialized at the Dog Park. They have an opportunity to run and burn their energy. The Lakewood dog park is like Disney for our furry friends. Let them enjoy it. Or, do you have a problem with the Magic Kingdom, and Mickey too? Please keep your stupid comments to yourself.
Fern Sullivan August 02, 2012 at 08:53 PM
@ Mike As idiotic as you find sin-dee's comments, you can't tell her to keep them to herself. This is a public site, with a public board. If you don't like her comments, just don't read them. Unfortunately you'll find some people on the boards here that just like to incite, if you ignore them, they go away.
schmied77 August 02, 2012 at 10:06 PM
We used to bring our dogs to the Airport park but everytime we went our dogs came home with fleas. Every trip required a flea bath when they got home. I stopped taking them. It's too bad, I enjoyed going there with them. Not a lot of places for them to run off the leash.
Sherry Kriss-Dillane August 03, 2012 at 12:47 AM
Schmied77..Have you tried Advantex 2...It is awesome..Our dog Boomer rest his soul, never had fleas or ticks...Our dog Nysa the same thing. Try it...I trust that one more than the others. Good luck!!
Dorothy August 03, 2012 at 01:15 PM
I absolutely agree. The difference between dog owners and cat owners is that dog owners think they have the right to impose their pets on everyone. Dogs are dirty and have disgusting habits. Walk them like everyone else does, on the streets of your neighborhood and bring your poop bags with you. Not everyone likes dogs, the owners do not train them to be quiet.
Dorothy August 03, 2012 at 01:17 PM
What's next parakeet parks? Lizard runs? You people are ridiculous. Grow up.
NBew Jersey Art August 03, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Dorothy - Cats are truly disgusting, usually neurotic and have been known to pee on their owners while asleep. No dog would ever do that. Give me a dog anyday. PS. We've had three cats.
NBew Jersey Art August 03, 2012 at 03:36 PM
How about a park with an electric fence for the cats?
Jessica Gianoulis Tavaglione August 04, 2012 at 09:49 AM
Electric fence???? U dont seem like an animal lover to me. U seem like like an IDIOT
NBew Jersey Art August 04, 2012 at 07:21 PM
It was a joke, Jessica. Lighten up!
Stan Buchwald August 04, 2012 at 09:16 PM
I have been taking my dogs to both parks over the years and its a very good setting to have your dogs socialize with other dogs. This process helps your dogs when your not at the park as well. The concern I have is the dog owners themselves. They use the parks as their own social hour,and do not watch their dogs. On a recent trip to the Berkeley park I came across four piles of feces,and on other occasions I have encountered the same. This is a way that dogs can contract diseases. I bring two dogs there and pay attention to both. I feel it's a great thing to have for dog owners. I just wish people would pay attention to their dogs more. I am very glad the county provides this space and glad to hear they have no plans to change that.
ELAINE January 05, 2013 at 07:16 PM
sin dee , we do have yards large not like running and playing & smelling nature a yard is for in & out a dog park is for playing with other dogs and smelling what is wrong with your bvrain ?? you must be bohners brotheri the speaker of the house he's 'brain dead also.. get a life .


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