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London Grove Township reopens dog park

05/10/2016 12:59PM ● Published by Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

All over London Grove Township and West Grove Borough, there is the jingly sound of dog leashes and the whip of wagging tails again, because after a month-long period of hibernation that some local residents thought was an unfair slap on the wrong wrists, the popular dog park at Goddard Park has been reopened.
At their May 4 meeting, the townships' Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to reopen the dog park, much to the delight of a dozen dog owners in attendance, who encouraged them to do so.
It was an exact reversal of what transpired at the last supervisors' meeting on April 6, when a -0 vote closed the dog park for a period of one month, following a report by Public Works Director Shane Kinsey. He informed the supervisors that some of the public were violating park rules, which clearly state that all dog waste is to be placed in appropriate containers, trash or recycling containers – not only at the dog park, but throughout the park's trail system.
The violations, Kinsey said, were not limited to the failure of residents to properly dispose of dog waste. Dog toys and other items were being left throughout the park and, despite signage that mandates proper leashing of dogs along trails and open areas, there were several incidents where dogs in the park had been found untethered.
While residents told the supervisors that the closing of the dog park served to punish the majority because of the actions of a few, the meeting quickly became an idea garden between elected officials and residents for how the township can better regulate the dog park. Residents made suggestions that ranged from encouraging dog owners to bring dog toys to and from the park, rather than leaving them in a toy bin. Another dog owner suggested that the township add additional dog waste trash receptacles  – as well as signage – near the dog park and along the trails.
Another resident suggested that the township enforce the issuance of fines along the trail, but the supervisors said that such signage would serve as a “hollow threat,” because fines would be difficult to enforce, given that police are not always patrolling the area.
“We chose what we thought we could control to get a message out that something has to improve and to open up a dialogue, and it did,” said board chairman Richard Scott Harper. “As much as you may dislike it, I'm happy with the results.”
There was discussion about the idea that was brought up at the April 6 meeting that suggested that if the problem isn't improved, that the township could issue an ordinance permanently banning all dogs from the park, entirely.
“I'm encouraged by this conversation and the attention that has been brought to the issue,” said supervisor Dave Connors. “I like the ideas, and I think another meeting is appropriate, but you can't take this off the table, because you just don't know if the issue will be here a year from now. It's not just a dog park. It's a park for everyone. I'm confident this issue will rectify itself. If it doesn't get addressed, I don't necessarily feel that [the permanent banning of dogs from Goddard Park] is something that won't be discussed.”
Some in attendance suggested that the township work with dog owners to develop a monitoring plan. To help maintain a sense of cleanliness and develop more ideas with residents, the township has appointed its Parks and Recreation Board (PRB) to work with residents and interested persons on solutions to the issue. The supervisors will then consider the recommendations of the PRB in the next three to six months.
“We're going to go the committee route and obviously have to give it time to come up with a process, and see if the process works,” Scott Harper said. “We want a solution to this. We don't want this to go away. I think all of us understand that this may take a little time, but we have a dialogue. We have people coming together.”
In other township business, May 4 marked the fourth consecutive board meeting that new supervisor Raymond Schoen has been absent for. Schoen was formally taken under arrest on Feb. 10 by the Birmingham Township Police on a triple count of criminal trespassing, theft and receiving stolen property, for his involvement in the alleged stealing of firearms from a Birmingham Township home in December.
On March 2, William Lincke, an attorney with the Media firm of Beatty Lincke and the township's solicitor, told an audience gathered at the township building that because Schoen's arrest is a criminal process being conducted by the District Attorney's office, “It is something with which this board has no involvement,” he said. “This board has no ability to take action as a result of what may or may not happen, and that process is just getting staged. The theory is accepted as law is that those who are elected by the people serve for as long as they are eligible to serve, and that can only be contested in this kind of a process at the end of such a proceeding mad requested only by the District Attorney's office, not by this board. There is no vote that this board can take in order to make any change to affect the seat of a sitting supervisor. It is not in their hands. This is a function of the State constitution.”
“He is not going to be at these public meetings until his issue is resolved,” Scott Harper said. “There is nothing we can do. It's his decision and his decision, alone.”
Mr. Schoen will remain an elected official of the township.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail rgaw@chestercounty.com.



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