Dog park’s hours spark debate in Norfolk

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Stockley Gardens Dog Park closes at sunset.  But some dog owners say they need time at night to let their dogs run — especially in the winter when it gets dark early.

Just after 5 p.m. Tuesday, Norfolk park rangers came and locked the gate to Stockley Gardens Dog Park.  Obviously people can still walk their dogs on the sidewalks once the sun goes down, but the enclosed park is where the dogs can run, and that’s why owners want the hours to change.

Stockley Gardens is a dog’s paradise.

Daniel McNamara, president of Ghent Dog Park Association, said of his dog, “He gets to go out there, be free, hang out with his friends.”

There’s not much more a dog could ask for.  But there’s something their owners want — more time to play in the park.

“It’s really tough to play fetch on a leash,” said McNamara.

The park is open sunrise to sunset, and in the winter months, that doesn’t leave much time in the evening.  McNamara said, “It effectively closes down the park for a good portion of the year.”

McNamara says the Ghent Dog Park Association is petitioning the city to extend the park’s hours — to be open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. — but some nearby residents aren’t on board.

“Everybody has their perspective,” said Norfolk City Councilwoman Andria McClellan.

McClellan is working with the dog park association, neighbors and the city to find a solution.

She said, “What’s unique to the Stockley Gardens Dog Park is that it is bordered by lots of houses, and so that makes it more important that we are respectful to the neighbors.”

McClellan says sunrise to sunset hours are typical for dog parks — but that doesn’t mean something new can’t come to Ghent.

“I’m willing to consider something else, there’s lighting in the Ghent dog park,” McClellan said.  “So I look forward to coming together and trying to come up with maybe a pilot project where we could test that out.”

McClellan, McNamara, other city officials and residents are meeting in a few weeks, hoping to end this dog park debate.

“Having this drag out, it’s the dogs that are actually getting hurt here,” McNamara said.

McClellan says none of the other dog park associations in the city have contacted her about changing their times.

The meeting about the Stockley Gardens Dog Park is coming up on February 20 at 5:30 p.m. at Williams School.

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