Norwich - The longtime ban on dogs in Mohegan Park could come to an end at least for a test period if the City Council agrees to revise the ordinance that prohibits dogs from being in most city parks and recreation areas.
Members of the Mohegan Park Improvement and Development Advisory Committee held a lively discussion on the issue Thursday over whether allowing dogs would increase use of the park or drive away non-dog owners who don't want to step in feces when owners disobey cleanup regulations.
The committee did not vote on the suggestion raised by member Mikel Middleton to open Mohegan Park to dogs on the woodland trails for a six-month trial. Middleton said Mayor Peter Nystrom recently said he would like to see more people use the park, and Middleton believes that would happen if dogs are allowed there.
Committee member Kevin Crowley expressed the strongest opposition, saying dog feces is a problem at Haley Farm in Groton and Barn Island in Stonington, and non-dog owners no longer feel comfortable there. He said there would be no way to control leash and feces cleanup regulations.
But Alderwoman Sofee Noblick, who favors opening Mohegan Park and other city parks to dogs, compared that argument to the issue of panhandling by some people downtown.
"You don't ban all people from walking downtown because some people panhandle," Noblick said.
Alderwoman Deberey Hinchey said more research must be done but felt the city could benefit economically by allowing dogs in the parks. She cited national statistics that show there are more U.S. households with dogs than with children, and dog owners spend money.
Committee Chairman Brandon Hyde said he was "on the fence" on the issue.
The committee did not vote Thursday to recommend allowing dogs in the park but will conduct further research, including a survey of residents to be available on the city website and distributed in Norwich Public Utilities bills. They also will research ordinances and experiences in other cities and towns where dogs are allowed in parks.