A new dog park has opened on Route 100 near the town highway garage with a grand opening ceremony set for the fall. The opening culminates a five-year journey by former Somers Councilman Harry Bolton who worked to give dogs a place to call their own.
Bolton began advocating for a dog park when he ran for town council. Residents were clamoring for a place to take their pet, since dogs are not allowed in any town parks.
Further inspiration for the dog park came from a neighbor of Bolton’s who suffered from vertigo and couldn’t walk her dog because he had trouble standing up.
“It was really terrible that she couldn’t walk her dog,” Bolton said. “It would be nice to have a dog park.”
Bolton realized Koegel Park had become obsolete when the Angle Fly Preserve opened in 2009 and thought it would be a good place to try out a dog park. About 40 percent of Somers residents own dogs.
Bolton, along with Ed Conte, a former policeman, took their case to the town and formed the Dog Park Committee. They were assisted by Steve Ralston, of the Somers Park and Recreation Department.
“They agreed to allow us to walk dogs at Koegel Park, do a one-year trial,” Bolton said. “If there was no trouble, they would talk about a dog park.”
After the successful one-year trial that gave dog owners a place to call their own and allowed for dogs to learn to socialize, Bolton and others began to look seriously about opening a dog park next to the highway garage. Bolton set up a fund, and donations began rolling in.
Canine Companions was started at Heritage Hills to raise money and awareness of the park. Canine Companions raised more than $3,000 with a jazz concert at Heritage Hills and collected 500 signatures in support of the park. Alyssa Klee, a Somers resident, raised $700 as part of her Bat Mitzvah project. Most of the fundraising came from small donations of $10.
Somers residents eventually raised more than $25,000.
While fund-raising went on, Bolton and Conte traveled throughout the area looking at dog parks in places like Bedford and Mahopac. The park has different sections, designed for small and big dogs. And so far, the park has been a hit.
“I ran into a woman who takes her 10-year-old and dog to the dog park,” Bolton said. “The kid gets to run around and the dog runs around and goes to the bathroom. It’s perfect. It’s really good dogs have a place to go now. It’s good for their health."
Moving to Florida in the fall, Bolton will not be able to enjoy the fruits of his labor.
“It’s a good thing to do for the town,” Bolton said. “It shows the town is concerned about the needs of residents. Somers is a wonderful place to live and this makes it better place to live. It opens the town up for people in other towns if they want to come."
Bolton and his wife, Victoria Roach, have three dogs, and are heavily involved in the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), based in Briarcliff Manor. Roach is often bringing home sick dogs, and the couple currently have a Pomeranian, American Eskimo and a mixed breed.
“We tend to get the dogs that no one wants to adopt, they are often very sick,” Bolton said. “It’s heart-wrenching when they pass away.”
Roach has set up a Facebook page for the Somers Dog Park that offers news and information about the park, while allowing owners to set up dog play dates.
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