Parks Officials Seek To Ban Dogs from Bristow, Formerly a Bird Sanctuary


Parks officials want to ban dogs altogether from Bristow Bird Sanctuary, a public park off of 106 that adjoins Mead Park.

The Park & Recreation Commission wants Bristow Bird Sanctuary completely dog-free.

The Park & Recreation Commission wants Bristow Bird Sanctuary completely dog-free.

If the Town Council updates an ordinance that deals with dogs in public parks, then the New Canaan Police Department’s Animal Control Unit could ticket anyone with a dog in Bristow, even if it’s leashed, members of the Park & Recreation Commission said Wednesday night at their regular monthly meeting.

“There are plenty of places for dogs to go in town on leash, so it is not like they would be denied recreational access,” the commission’s chair, Sally Campbell, said during the meeting, held in the Douglass Room at Lapham Community Center.

The commission had taken up the matter one year ago and, despite reservations from the parks superintendent about how widespread was the desire to ban dogs from Bristow, made a recommendation to the Ordinance Subcommittee of the Town Council. That effort went nowhere.

Under Article 6, Section 8 of the Town Charter, dogs aren’t allowed to run off-leash anywhere in New Canaan public parks except in a designated dog run (Spencer’s Run at Waveny).

Commissioner Andrea Peterson said the original deed on the property reads: “Land shall forever be maintained as a bird sanctuary and wildlife preserve and used for no other purpose whatsoever.”

It isn’t clear whether that implies leashed dogs cannot access Bristow. The Town Council likely would discuss the matter with the town attorney, said Sven Englund, a councilman and liaison to Park & Rec who was in attendance.

According to Recreation Director Steve Benko, the New Canaan Audubon Society in 1976 relinquished its rights to the property and handed what then had been called the ‘New Canaan Bird Sanctuary’ to the town. The town renamed it and, since the habitat for birds had declined so that songbirds no longer were using Bristow, dogs were allowed in it, Benko said.

The property used to have a “No Dogs Allowed” sign that since has come down and a dog waste bag dispenser is located at the gate.

Commissioner Francesca Segalas said the dispenser should be removed and sign banning dogs replaced.

12 thoughts on “Parks Officials Seek To Ban Dogs from Bristow, Formerly a Bird Sanctuary

  1. I believe the heartfelt original intent of the language “used for no other purpose whatsoever”, was to insure that the property was not turned into a ball field or used to erect any buildings. It says nothing about who or what may access it. This is a beautiful place to take a walk with your leashed four legged friend and access should not be denied. Should we erect deer fencing to keep them out too? The fact that there used to be no dogs allowed was a mistake that was rectified and should stay rectified.

    • I agree with Mr. Barnett. This is an attempt to fix a problem that does not exist. We live near the Sanctuary, and it is one of our favorite places to take our dog for a walk in the woods. Rarely do we see anyone there and if we do, they usually are accompanied by their dog!

  2. a big problem in Bristow BIRD SANCTUARY is that many dog owners let their dogs loose and off leash there … and don’t pick up the crap that their dog leaves behind. (which they also don’t do in Waveny or Irwin parks).
    there are plenty of other places to walk a dog in NC and leaving your dog’s crap there … so how about leaving this one alone?

  3. After reading this article I do not see anywhere why the commissioner is trying to ban dogs on a leash in a public park. Does the commission not feel the need to give a reason? As a responsible dog owner I see lots of people who don’t pick up after their dog and plenty of dogs off leash in public parks. How about we focus on those that blatantly break the rules and not take away more public space from those that are responsible and follow the rules?

  4. This just seems like such a misinterpretation of the original mission.
    If it is to remain a bird sanctuary and nothing else, that would mean we could not walk there as people, with our children, strollers, dogs or otherwise.
    Why would we exclude members of the community from properly enjoying a public park? What is the motivation for excluding use of this park by members of the commission. What is there to gain?

    • Sarah doesn’t seem to understand that when you have ground nesting birds, as there are in Bristow, that there is a difference between people walking quietly and peacefully … and dogs barking and running loose thru the trails and brush, and thereby disturbing wildlife and human beings who might like a place of calm where you don’t have to worry about being mugged by someone’s dog … who “just loves people” … as he/she lunges at you.

      • The article doesn’t highlight if there is an opportunity for community members to affect change (whatever side of the vote you are on), and I was wondering if there was information regarding a town meeting on this topic?

        Thanks kindly for keeping this a forum for comments relevant to the topic, and not about making personal assumptions about people you don’t know.

        • Sarah thank you for asking that. The short answer is: Residents absolutely will have a chance to weigh in during a public meeting on this subject. My understanding is (and I’ll circle back here if I hear differently): Now that the Park & Recreation Commission formally has recommended a change to the Town Code, the Town Council will take up this matter in subcommittee—specifically, the Subcommittee on Ordinances. Now, that group’s job is to vet what comes before it and make a recommendation to the full Town Council. You will be able to express yourself directly to the subcommittee at a meeting of that group (they’re all public—see a list of subcommittee members at the bottom of this page, I’m not sure if they’re up-to-date: and then, you also absolutely would be able to weigh in at a full Town Council meeting, at the time the subcommittee’s recommendation comes before it. I’m happy to circle back to this thread as dates for these meetings are set.

  5. Mike – you might want to check out what regulations are current for Bristow … some feel that dogs are already banned from that area and the signs just need to go back up??
    Again, it would be nice to have at least one area in Town where humans can walk and not have to worry about being mugged by a loose dog!

  6. I agree with George. Not everyone loves dogs or wants contact with them. We have a child who is highly allergic to dog saliva. The last time one licked her she had hives for 3 days.
    We like walking through the bird santuary with our Bird Guide and ending up at the frog pond.
    But when dogs are running around the santuary is anything but that; in fact, it becomes a stress-uary. Additionally, it’s terrible when we have to watch our step because a dog has left behind it’s “calling card” and it’s owner didnt bother to clean-up.

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