Published July 22. 2014 4:00AM
Stonington — A dispute over the unofficial dog park at the borough sewer plant escalated Sunday morning as police say one of the new owners of an adjacent home displayed and turned on a stun device while ordering two children to get their dog off the tiny beach below her seawall. The children told their parents, who called police.
On Sunday afternoon, police were back at the park when a resident complained that the owners, Laura Ann Gabrysch and Frank Mastrapasqua, had placed a mixture of paprika and pet repellent on the rocks that separate the park from Stonington Harbor in an effort to keep the animals out of the water.
Police said Gabrysch did not threaten the children with the stun device but admitted to putting the mixture on the rocks. Witnesses and police said another neighbor upset with the dog park confronted the officer who responded to the afternoon incident.
No arrests were made in either of the incidents, but police said they issued warnings and told Gabrysch to talk to town and borough officials about their park concerns. Police also said they informed Gabrysch that state law ensures public access to waters and beaches below the high water mark. The beach area is covered by water most of the day.
The couple, who recently moved to the borough from Nashville, Tenn., bought the house at 13 Front St. in April for $900,000. On Monday afternoon, a woman who answered the door at the house said she had no comment.
Residents had dogs in the park Monday afternoon, and a few of the dogs climbed down the rock to cool off in the shallow, protected water where the couple has placed a sign that reads: "No Trespassing - Violators Will Be Prosecuted."
The large, grassy property, which is owned by the town, has never been officially designated as a dog park. Still, it is very popular with borough dog owners, who meet there each day with their pets. Much of the property is surrounded by a fence. The parts that are not fenced are bordered by rocks that lead down to the water.
Last year, park users said, the town installed a new area of fence along the Gabrysch-Mastrapasqua property. It contains a gate that dog owners would open to let their pets access a small trail that leads down to the water. But a few days ago they say someone placed a heavy-duty bicycle lock on the gate so it can longer be opened. The lock was still there Monday afternoon, forcing dogs that could to climb up and down the large rocks to the water.
Borough Warden Jeff Callahan was at a Warden and Burgesses meeting Monday night and could not immediately be reached to comment.