County residents will continue to have access to the county's two off-leash dog parks in 2013, but the number of hours they will be staffed is being cut, officials said.
Ocean County Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr., the liaision to the county's department of Parks and Recreation, said budget constraints and continuing efforts to reduce the county's workforce have led to the decision to cut back on the hours an attendant is present at each of the two parks -- at Ocean County Park, Lakewood, and adjacent to Robert J. Miller Airpark in Berkeley Township.
The hours in the winter are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and are extended to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the summer. Of those hours, an attendant will be present daily for the first three hours and the last three hours, before the park closes.
While residents will still need to get a permit to use the dog parks, the amount of the permit will be reduced from $25 to $5. People using the dog park will still need to carry their county-issued dog park identification card to assure dogs using the facilities are licensed and are up to date with their vaccines.
“Our dog parks will continue to be open to the public just as they have always been,” Bartlett said.
During the summer, a controversy erupted over rumors the county was going to significantly reduce the hours the dog parks were open. Bartlett at the time said the rumors were untrue and that the county was committed to keeping the parks available to county residents.
“We are making every effort to keep the dog parks open and running," Bartlett said. "Reducing the hours an attendant will be there will allow us to keep the dog parks open during regular hours.”
“The dramatic increase in the population of Ocean County has made open space for dog owners to let their dogs run free increasingly scarce,” Bartlett said. “These facilities fulfill the needs of both the dog owner and the general public. We will continue to work to keep these facilities open and available to our citizens.”