08/06/13 5:00pm
08/06/2013 5:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Baxter, Misha and Sidney of Selden with their owner Irene Rabinowitz at last year’s dog park opening in Calverton. Riverhead’s own dog park at Stotzky Park will open Saturday.

Isn’t it about time you throw your dog a bone? Riverhead residents now have the opportunity to do just that.

The opening of the brand new Duke Dog Park is set to take place at 1 p.m. Saturday in the upper parking field at Stotzky Park. Councilman James Wooten and other elected officials will be on hand to usher in the latest addition to the Riverhead community.

The park gives residents a chance to let their dogs run free and play in a large, secure fenced-in area. The new park comes just a year after the long-awaited dog park at EPCAL in Calverton opened.

Councilman Wooten worked alongside Riverhead resident Denise Lucas, the founder of the non-profit “Move the Animal Shelter,” or M.T.A.S, who played a big role in raising enough funds to build the park and for supplies.

“I think there is a big advantage to having a dog park in our town,” Mr. Wooten said. “There are a lot of seniors who live in condos who don’t have that space.”

Mr. Wooten said he believes Riverhead was one of the last communities to get its own dog park.

“It gives people a place to go,” he said. “I think there is a real need for it and I see a desire for it.”

The park is free to the public.

07/21/12 3:00pm
07/21/2012 3:00 PM
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The long-awaited dog park at EPCAL in Calverton opened Saturday morning to the happy pants of about 50 dogs as the gate to the park was “unleashed.”

Jerry Bilinski of Riverhead was one of the first to arrive with his three rescue dogs: Petey, 5, a Chihuahua; Ozzie, 13, a Cock-a-poo; and Lucy, 3, a Maltese/Yorkie. Mr. Bilinski said he thought the dog park was long overdue for the community.

“Having lived part of the time in the city, as well as out here, we got to appreciate the way dog parks help socialize dogs and become a community meeting place for people,” he said. “We have this fence mentality for dogs here on Long Island, which creates a lack of socialism. Dogs are social animals. Dog parks are a place where dogs learn to play and hopefully become better behaved.”

The dog park is free for now and open from 8 a.m. to dusk, seven days a week.

The park has been in the works since March, planned by Councilman Jim Wooten, with the help of Denise Lucas of the non-profit group “Move the Animal Shelter” or M.T.A.S.. The town contributed $10,000 toward improvements of the infrastructure of the property with the help of the Town Highway department and Buildings and Grounds. Ms. Lucas’ group provided $14,000 for the fencing, signage, picnic tables, benches and dog poop-bag dispensers.

The owner of National Outdoor Furniture company, Deron Nakamura of Riverhead, gave a 25 percent discount on the furniture for the park. Mr. Wooten called it “truly a community partnership.”

Legislator Ed Romaine said: “If you get into politics and you want a friend — get a dog.” He’s has five.

The park is named “Isaac Park” after a 2-year-old Golden Doodle who belongs to Margaret Savercol and Lewis Topper of Mattituck. They met Ms. Lucas at a fundraiser for North Fork Animal Welfare at the Riverhead Project.

“We were excited to help her and were inspired by her enthusiasm and vision to create the dog park and a dog shelter that is in need of a lot of love,” Ms. Savercol said. “With this it is a great grass roots project.”

Ms. Lucas is continuing to hold fundraisers for M.T.A.S.. The new shelter plan is 100 by 120 feet, designed by local contractor Richie Cox, and will be able to house 40 dogs and 40 cats. She hopes the town will move forward and make plans to locate it near the dog park at EPCAL. She said the costs have been broken down and right now she has enough money for the plans and foundation. She still needs to raise $332,000. The next fundraiser is Friday night at Finnegans Wake bar in South Jamesport with Fred McLaughlin as the guest bartender. He is also the vice president of her organization.

According to Recreation Department director Ray Coyne and Mr. Wooten, a second, smaller dog park is already planned for Stotzky Park near field 6, the t-ball field, which they hope to have under construction this fall. Other plans for Isaac Park is the installation of a well for water at the park and irrigation for the softball fields by next spring. Tennis, handball and beach volleyball courts are also planned for the future.

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BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Mike Prestano with his dog Moxie, 3, who was rescued from the Riverhead Town Shelter. He said she is a little aggressive and he was trying to get her acclaimated to people and other dogs. “This dog park will help her,” he said.

07/20/12 10:00am
07/20/2012 10:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The big dog play area at the RIverhead dog park in Calverton.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The big dog play area at the RIverhead dog park in Calverton.

Riverhead Town officials are holding a “leash-cutting ceremony” Saturday at the town’s first-ever dog park.

The fenced-in space for dogs to run and play is separated into two areas, one for small dogs and another for large dogs. The park, located off Route 25 in Calverton, near the town’s new ball fields, also features picnic benches and a smaller fenced-in area for dogs and their owners to get prepped to let the dogs go in the larger area.

The event runs from 10 a.m. to noon.

Councilman James Wooten, liaison to the town animal advisory committee, spearheaded efforts to get the park built. There was a town code change needed, which held up the process for a couple of months.

Volunteers with the Move the Animal Shelter nonprofit also raised funds for the park.

In a press released, Mr. Wooten credited Move the Animal Shelter chairperson and founder, Denise Lucas, as well as the work of Riverhead highway superintendent George “Gio” Woodson, the town’s engineering and buildings and grounds supervisor Guy Cawley and their staffs, as well as town recreation director Ray Coyne and his staff.

He said those who pushed for the park felt the location would “encourage residents to visit the adjacent ball field site, provide a unique opportunity for residents to let their pets run free safely and legally without a leash, and provide a place for social interaction for dogs and their owners.”

While the town dedicated the land and the time of many staff members, the Move the Animal Shelter group “funded many of the improvements necessary to create the park,” the release reads. “Some of the features of the dog park include a six foot chain link fence, gates, area for small dogs and an area for large dogs, benches, picnic tables,  pet clean up areas, walkways and paved entrances.”

Called “Isaac Dog Park,” Mr. Wooten said the name recognizes “the generous gift from a private citizen who contributed to the park. I believe it is after a loved pet.”

All members of the public are invited to join the event.

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BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The Move the Animal Shelter group raised funds to pay for the park's infrastructure and amenities. It was no immediately clear who 'Isaac' is, the park's namesake.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The Move the Animal Shelter group raised funds to pay for the park’s infrastructure and amenities.

05/11/12 5:00pm
05/11/2012 5:00 PM

BARBARALLEN KOCH PHOTO | Pet owners will have to wait a little longer to take their dogs to Riverhead's first dog park.

The opening of Riverhead’s first town dog park has been delayed a second time, town officials announced Friday.

The dog park, a fenced-in area near the new baseball fields at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, was scheduled to hold a grand opening Saturday, May 12. But the ceremony has been pushed back because poor weather delayed improvements that were supposed to be made at the site, said Town Councilman James Wooten.

Mr. Wooten said the dog park is expected to open “soon.”

The park was originally scheduled to open April 28, but was delayed because paving work in the new park’s parking lot wasn’t finished yet.

Access to the site is restricted until the paving work is completed.

03/25/12 3:00pm
03/25/2012 3:00 PM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Animal activist Denise Lucas will need to raise an additional $270,000 to complete her plan to build a new town animal shelter and construct several new dog parks.

Despite raising more than $30,000 for her plans to build a new town animal shelter and construct several new dog parks for Riverhead residents, animal activist Denise Lucas said she will need to raise at least another $270,000 through donations or sponsorships to make her vision a reality.

Now she’s hoping she can find generous donors to purchase individual aspects of the parks and shelter.

“If some high-roller in town wants to come up with 20 grand, we could get something [built],” said Ms. Lucas, who founded the fundraising group “Move the Animal Shelter” in October.

The new shelter, proposed as a 100 x 120-foot steel structure, would cost more than $330,000 in total, according to a preliminary work proposal for the building.

This figure, Ms. Lucas said, would be just enough to get the shelter built, and would not include equipment or other items for the dogs within. Those would have to be supplied later, though she believes community members would be more willing to donate once construction begins.

“I just want to get the project going,” Ms. Lucas said. “It’s been five months already, I just want something to happen.”

Despite the daunting dollar amount, Ms. Lucas is hopeful that a generous donor will offer to sponsor a section of the construction, like the shelter’s walls, which would cost just over $19,000.

The town, which originally planned to build a first dog park at EPCAL this spring, will also build two additional parks at Stotzky Park and Jamesport, Ms. Lucas announced. Of the $30,000 raised so far, $7,400 has been raised specifically for the new parks.

“I’m hoping to have the dog park [at EPCAL] open by April 28,” she said, adding that the other two parks should open in May and June, respectively.

Ms. Lucas is looking for sponsors to pitch in to purchase or donate individual aspects of the parks, such as benches and obstacles for the dogs to play on.

“I’m really asking if the community could come together and somebody please start helping, anybody, businesses or wealthy people, helping to pay for stuff,” she said.

Proposed legislation concerning dog parks was the subject of a public hearing Tuesday night at Riverhead Town Hall, where the public was able to give feedback on a proposal to add a definition of dog parks, along with fees for usage, to the town code.

In response to a question about funding the parks, Councilman James Wooten said Ms. Lucas’ fundraising efforts and permit fees should suffice. The exact legislation reads: “Permits for the Dog Park shall be issued by the Office of the Town Clerk upon proof of a current dog license, Rabies Vaccine Certificate and Health Certificate. Fees for the year-round Dog Park Permit are as follows: Resident $15, Non-Resident $30, Replacement of Lost/Damaged Permit $10, Amended Dog Owner Permit for each additional dog $5.”

In the meantime, Move the Animal Shelter has scheduled more events to help raise donations for the new shelter. Several of the group’s previous events were sold out, and Ms. Lucas expects large turnouts at future fundraisers as well.

The group’s next event on March 29 at Hy Ting Restaurant downtown will feature Councilman James Wooten and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio in a cook-off against Ms. Lucas’ friends. Tickets to the buffet dinner will cost $20 per person, she said.

Ms. Lucas has spent the past five months raising funds at a breakneck pace. But when asked whether she would want to raise money professionally for other causes, Ms. Lucas immediately said that wasn’t going to happen.

“Absolutely not,” she joked. “I miss my family.”

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Additional reporting was provided by Tim Gannon.