For now, the next Handsome Dan will roam the athletic fields alone, and golfers have been forced to find another driving range.
As of March 1, dogs and golfers were disallowed on the grounds of the Yale Athletic Complex. But concern among community members about the adverse affects of the policy change has fostered an ongoing dialogue between University and local officials, Associate Vice President of New Haven and State Affairs Michael Morand said.
The main concern of local residents seems to be surrounding the ban on dogs and not on golfing.
“We all understand that it is private property, but it would be a nice nod to the neighborhood to maintain the long-standing practice of allowing dogs on the field. But we all understand that the prohibition of golfing is appropriate, because that’s dangerous,” said Ward 25 Alderwoman Ina Silverman, whose district includes the athletic fields.
The regulation was enacted to address health and safety concerns of the ground maintenance crew, Assistant Athletic Director Erin Carey said. The fields were closed to dogs to address concerns of canine fecal matter and unleashed dogs. Golfers were banned due to abandoned balls and divots that presented a danger to others on the fields.
“The divots that they create and the golf balls left behind are a hazard to athletes, polo ponies and equipment,” Carey said.
The change was made by a task force composed of athletic ground maintenance crew members and managers from athletics, human resources, the Office of New Haven and State Affairs and the Yale Police Department.
“A policy was adopted in consultation with the unionized staff to have the fields remain open to the public for jogging and walking and general exercise of that sort, but not to allow dog walking or golf on the fields” said Yale spokesman Tom Conroy.
University officials said they consider the new regulations to be to the benefit of the greater community.
“We feel it was a decision we had to make for the health and safety of everyone involved,” Athletic Director Tom Beckett said.
However, others affected by the policy change said they was not satisfied with the new regulations.
“As a person in the neighborhood, I am very disappointed that there wasn’t really any dialogue with the community,” said Gary Spinner, a local resident and dog owner.
Spinner believes the social aspect of the dog-run has been lost.
“People come together with their dogs to the park, but they get to commune with each other,” Spinner said.
Since the change was publicized in a letter sent to local residents in late February, Carey said she believes there has been progress.
“There are less dogs on the fields, less golfers. Most people are handling the change pretty well. It will improve some aspects of the quality of the field,” she said.
In order to compromise, Yale has suggested that it could help maintain an existing dog-walk or create a new one in Edgewood Park, said Silverman. There have been no definitive agreements, Carey said.