For Brian Babcock, the idea of turning an East Quogue Community Preservation Fund parcel into a dog park has become about more than just the furry four-legged friends that would enjoy it. It’s about people, too.
The East Quogue resident said taking his four-year-old Plott hound Lady and five-year-old beagle Charlie to the closest dog park on Windmill Lane in Southampton Village has been near impossible for his family in the warmer months when the traffic is at its worst. But after doing some research and speaking to community members, he said he’s realized these parks mean more to residents than just a place to let their dogs roam free.
“Right now, my dogs are home sleeping on the couch, and they love to go to the park and run, but one of the most important things that people don’t realize comes with a dog park is the human aspect of it,” he said. “Some people maybe live at home by themselves, have a dog, and one of the ways they communicate with others is to go to an area like a dog park and sit there and talk to people. Most people don’t realize how good that human aspect of interaction really is.”
When doing some research about creating a dog park, he found out that just about a year ago, the Bideawee in Westhampton closed the public portion of the dog park.
“It was an eye-opener for me,” he said. “Those who went there lost so much. They went every day, saw their friends, made plans with each other. All that’s lost. It made me want to do this even more, because I feel horrible that they don’t have a place to go.”
Funding has been the biggest burden for Babcock in bringing his vision to fruition. With a group of 25 supporters, he approached the Southampton Town Board last October to pitch the idea and ask where the park could potentially be constructed. He said board members liked the idea, and suggested two potentials parcels, at Head of Lots Road, a three-acre parcel he favored, and the former Turtle Bay property adjacent to it, which community members declined because it’s along Montauk Highway.
He met with Town Parks Director Kristen Doulos to hammer out the logistics. She estimated the park would cost roughly $75,000. She said the greatest expense is fencing, coming in at $55,000 to $60,000.
A fundraiser with $40 admission will be held at New Moon Café in East Quogue Sunday May 19, to help make the park a reality. Café owners Ron and Shana Campsey, whom Babcock said are not only dog-lovers but “fixtures in the community,” wanted to pitch in. The event, from 3 to 5 PM, will include passed hors d’oeuvres, hamburger and hot dog barbecue, and a cash bar. Babcock, who is also a member of the Greater East Quogue Chamber of Commerce, said donations will be tax deductible. He’s hoping to revisit the town with the money raised and suggest constructing the park in phases, possibly starting with building the large dog or small dog run first so that the fencing portion doesn’t have to be paid out all at once. Entrances to both sections will cost an estimated $500.
Hearing about Babcock’s effort, Julie Crowley, a member of the Rotary Club of Hampton Bays who owns two two-and-a-half-year-old chocolate Labrador retrievers named Rosie and Bubba, wanted to find a way to help. She said the Rotary Club was starting to brainstorm community projects to get involved in, with the group encouraging endeavors that promote healthy and safe drinking water. Installing water fountains for humans and their pets was the way Crowley saw the club could get involved. It’s pledged $3500, which also includes signage.
“We want to get people involved and interested, let them know what the project will entail,” she said. “And there’s lots of people already looking to help get the word out there. Everyone’s excited. Any time you have people coming together for the benefit of the community and other people is refreshing. Projects like this just show how strong a community can be.”
Babcock said he sees the local economy also benefitting from the project. Increased foot traffic could get people in area shops, purchasing from gas stations, or stopping for lunch.
“It does bring in some tourism over the summer,” he said. “It also brings the community together, because I have so many people coming up to me that want to help on a long-term basis. They want to be stewards of the park . . . for nothing. They want to clean up, open and close the park. People like to volunteer, and this is a good way for them to do that.”
Pine Neck Meadows Dog Park, according to Babcock, was the name chosen to ensure all who come know it’s a park open to anyone, not just residents of East Quogue. He said he thought the location was a plus too, being it’s central to Eastport, Remsenburg, Speonk, and Shinnecock Hills. The closest park to the east is in Southampton Village, and west is in Shirley. Those looking to learn more or get involved can visit Babcock’s Facebook group Pine Neck Meadows Dog Park, which will be updated with additional information, progress status, and future events.