The Chestertown Council voted at its Dec. 2 meeting to name the dog park at Margo Bailey Park on Rolling Road “Stetson Dog Park.” The name recognizes retiring Councilman Marty Stetson, who has been a strong advocate for the dog park and its pet owners over his three terms on the council.
The vote came in the context of an ordinance to establish regulations for the park, and for the town’s other parks. Town Manager Bill Ingersoll, who brought the council a preliminary draft of the ordinance, said the dog park should have a name for the purpose of the ordinance. Councilman David Foster moved to name the park for Stetson, “the person who’s done the most work for it.” The motion passed by unanimous vote. Stetson recused himself.
Ingersoll said he had consulted the Kent County offices and the Animal Shelter, which enforces county animal control ordinances, about enforcement of the county regulations within town limits, and concluded that it was best for the town to enact its own ordinance which could be enforced by the Chestertown Police Department. The proposed measure originated with Stetson, who came to the Nov. 18 council meeting with a set of suggested rules to regulate “aggressive and dangerous” dogs that are occasionally brought to the park.
During his research on the proposed ordinance, Ingersoll said he realized that “we really don’t have good regulations about our other parks.” He and Town Clerk Jen Mulligan researched park regulations in other towns and began work on a draft ordinance to cover all the town’s parks. The ordinance would address issues such as hours of operation (dawn to dusk for most town parks) and prohibited conduct, such as destruction of property or dangerous behavior. Town police would be charged with enforcing the ordinance. He noted that Fountain Park, which is lighted, would be “a little different” from the other town parks.
Ingersoll asked council members to read the draft, which is based on a draft Stetson brought to the Nov. 18 meeting, and make suggestions. He particularly asked Stetson to suggest any rules specific to dog parks that he thought would be needed. He said he would flesh out the ordinance to include all town parks and incorporate the council’s suggestions into a formal draft to introduce at the Dec. 16 meeting. The measure would be voted on by the council in January, at which point the two new council members will be seated. That way, “Everybody gets a chance to decide what goes into the ordinance,” he said.
Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver asked what would happen if the town asks the county to come in to enforce some part of the ordinance. Ingersoll said the final ordinance would have sections relating to what each jurisdiction would be responsible for in the park. “There are some things that we wouldn’t do,” he said, noting that other towns have handled their regulations the same way. Certain aspects of animal control are public health issues, for example. Stetson noted that any police officer can enforce a legal provision, whether town or county. Ingersoll said he would also work with the police to make sure they were comfortable with what the ordinance required of them.
Mayor Chris Cerino noted the “historic” nature of the moment, praising Stetson for his work to make the park a success. He said, “I want to congratulate Marty, because I know you’ve put a lot of time into this park, and also raised a lot of money outside of the budget, which we all have to do when we want to do cool projects.”
“I’m very honored,” said Stetson. “It’s quite an achievement, and I appreciate it very much. The dog park does mean an awful lot to me – and to my dog.”
Cerino said the town should raise money for a sign over the gate. “I was thinking neon,” Stetson joked. (Cerino pointed out that a town ordinance prohibits neon signs.)
The dog park, located in Margo Bailey Park between Rolling Road and Schauber Road, has two fenced-off sections, for large dogs (defined as over 30 pounds) and smaller dogs. Each section has a watering fountain, an exercise ramp, and a shaded pavilion for dogs and their owners to sit out of the sun. The parks include both paved and grassy areas for the dogs to run free. It was completed in 2013, after Stetson and a group of local dog owners raised money for its design and construction. While the dog park is on town property, its construction and maintenance have been funded by the non-profit group Friends of the Chestertown Dog Park, thus putting no extra strain on the town budget. The park also received a grant from the state of Maryland that helped with the initial construction. Stetson’s reports on the dog park have been a regular feature of his ward reports during his time on the council, and he has frequently noted that the park attracts not only local dog owners but visitors from far and wide, making Chestertown a popular destination for people with pets.
The Spy visited the newly-named Stetson Park on a recent December afternoon and even in that rather cold and cloudy weather, there were four dogs and their owners taking advantage of the facility. Pam Moore of Heron Point was there with her rescue dog, a standard poodle named Max who loved chasing and catching his special squeaky, yellow tennis ball. Moore told us that at busy times there might be as many as 15-20 dogs and their owners at the park. She said that there are around 60 dogs at Heron Point. Many retirement communities, she noted, don’t allow dogs or other pets so that was one of the main reasons she had chosen Chestertown and Heron Point for her retirement. The stetson Dog Park is within fairly easy walking distance from Heron Point.
Tylia Hynson was also there with her beagle/hound/pit bull mix dog, Bentley. Bentley was energetic and friendly, eager to lick our hands and play with us. As we were leaving, two dog-friends, Mishka the Newfie and Skylar the “Pomsky” were arriving with their owners David van Wyck and John Larrimore. We’d never seen a “Pomsky” before, let alone even knew they existed. This pomeranian/husky mix took after the husky side of his family – just a little smaller than the usual husky.
The Stetson Dog Park is open daily from dawn to dusk. There are two fenced sections, one for large dogs over 30 pounds and one for small dogs. There is a gravel walking path around the fence in each section. The path in the large dog section is 1400 feet long while the path in the small dog park is 900 feet long. Thus 4 times around the large track is a little over a mile while it takes 6 times around the shorter track to be a little over a mile. There’s lots of room on the grass for dogs to run and play.
You must have a dog to enter the park. Each dog must be accompanied by someone 16 or older. For safety reasons, children under 10 years old are not allowed. Only dogs are allowed to play on the park equipment. (You’ve been warned, humans! Don’t hog the dogs’ playground equipment!) For a complete list of the current regulations see the sign below. The new and revised regulations will be posted as soon as they are finalized and voted on at a town council meeting in the new year.
Over 70 individuals, organizations and businesses have contributed to the dog park fund so far, raising thousands of dollars for the park. See the lists of donors below. Anyone wishing to help with the Stetson Dog Park should send a donation to: The Friends of the Chestertown Dog Park, 208 Glen St., Chestertown, MD 21620. The group is all-volunteer with no paid employees so that all donations go 100% to the maintenance and enhancement of the dog park.