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Waterfront group wants input on proposed Canton dog park

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CANTON — Judith L. DeGraaff and others who support creating a fenced-in dog park in the village claim Canton Island Park along the Grasse River would be enhanced by romping dogs and their owners.

The waterfront park, also known as Willow Island, is a swath of grass and trees off West Main Street on the western edge of the village.

Ms. DeGraaff, 56 Judson St., and other community members are trying to persuade the village Board of Trustees to allow a dog park there where dogs would have a wide-open space to exercise and socialize.

“A dog park is not dependent on water, but it would be enhanced by it,” Ms. DeGraaff said. “It would help create a pleasant experience.”

Priest Field off Judson Street was scrapped as a possible site after neighbors complained that a dog park would interfere with children playing in that area. They also were concerned about noise.

Now, Ms. DeGraaff and her supporters want the board to give them permission to install a wire fence and extra benches at Canton Island Park in order to establish space for a 17,000-square-foot dog park that would be shaped like a tear drop.

The land next to the water would not be included in the dog park. A diagram of the proposed park can be viewed on the town and village’s website at www.cantonnewyork.us.

“We want to make it clear that people would still have access to the waterfront,” Ms. DeGraaff said. “There would be a clear length for picnics.”

During a public hearing last week, Thomas M. Cutter, 55 Bird St., urged trustees to hold off making a decision until they consider recommendations included in the Canton Grasse River Revitalization Plan.

The 150-page document identifies options for enhancing the town and village’s Grasse River waterfront. It was adopted by the town and village boards in 2010 and approved by the state’s Department of State Division of Coastal Resources.

“You had six people who spent five years working on that plan,” Mr. Cutter said. “This board, at a bare minimum, should refer to this proposal.”

The plan recommends that new development include uses that are enhanced by the riverfront and consistent with local architectural character.

It suggests more recreational and public access such as walking and biking rails, boat launches and fishing access. It also mentions restaurants, pubs, retail stores and overnight accommodations as other possibilities.

At Canton Island Park, the plan recommends adding grills, picnic tables and benches.

“The intent was to add more facilities for people to come and picnic there. That has not been accomplished,” Mr. Cutter said.

Ms. DeGraaff said she feels a dog park fits in with recommendations in the waterfront plan.

“The dog park experience can be enhanced by being on the waterfront,” she said.

Dr. Adam Jaffe and his wife, Brenda D., spoke in support of the dog park, telling trustees it could encourage dog owners to visit downtown.

“At this point, there is not a dog park in St. Lawrence County,” Mr. Jaffe said. “People travel with dogs a lot. I think it could be a very big boost to the downtown economy.”

Mrs. Jaffe said she believes the waterfront plan and a dog park could “go hand in hand.”

Another supporter, Margaret Mauk, said, “I don’t see a conflict at all.”

The village board held off making a decision, instead directing members of the dog park committee to meet with the waterfront advisory committee.

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