These days, visitors to the Spencer's Run dog park punch in a personal identification number to a keypad to unlock the wood and chicken-wire gate to the 1.5-acre grassy space.
That's because the Park and Recreation Commission, in concert with the Spencer's Run Committee, has put forth a new electronic entry system, for which users must sign up and pay a yearly fee. Users are then issued a pass code to punch in, which unlocks the gate and allows them entry.
Overcrowding and poor behavior by dogs have been concerns for those who frequent Spencer's Run in recent years.
"There were a lot of people from out-of-town coming in, who really couldn't care less," Recreation Director Steve Benko said. "We had a few instances where there were verbal altercations. This was the best way of trying to bring this thing back."
Benko said more than 400 people have signed up to use the park under the new system, about 60 percent of whom are nonresidents. The rate for residents is $25 for the first dog and $15 for each additional dog, up to three.
For nonresidents, the amount for the first dog is $40, with the other specifications the same. Additionally, all dogs must have proof of being up to date with their rabies shots.
"I think out-of-town users feel better that they can contribute to upkeep of the park. That made some town residents unhappy because they were providing this for free."
Devereaux and her white standard poodle, Louis Armstrong, are frequent visitors of Spencer's Run. Other frequent visitors were supportive of the new system Tuesday afternoon.
"It seems like there are fewer dogs here," Evelyn Harvey, who was there with Max, said. "Before you didn't know who the dogs were or if they had their shots."
New Canaan resident Jane Vanderzee, who was there with her white standard poodle, Remy Martin (he's French), was effusive in her praise of the new system.
"They're so much better behaved and the masters are paying attention to them because the masters have an interest in the park," she said. "There aren't that many towns that have this type of recreation outlet. I think it's good we encourage those who aren't from here. It makes us look less elite and more welcoming."
She wasn't alone in viewing the dog park as a human recreation area as well.
"If you've got a fenced area, dogs love to play together and people like to talk. It's a socialization area for the dogs and people make friends. It's just fun it's a lot of fun," Devereaux said.
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