Freedom Barks looking for solution to litter problem at Medford dog park

Lately, the Freedom Park Dog Run has gone to the dogs, but not in a good way.

Representatives from Freedom Barks, the nonprofit organization helping to maintain the dog park, attended the council meeting on May 6. Speaking on their behalf, Jo Sue Kauffman issued a plea for assistance in keeping the park clean.

According to Freedom Barks, litter and dog excrement have become a major issue at the park, filling the ground, bushes and even trees with waste.

“Our main problem at this point is dealing with the litter and garbage,” she said.

To deal with this, Freedom Barks has found someone who is willing to clean the park regularly, but only if he gets paid. The organization is concerned about liability issues if it hires someone for the job.

Township Manager Chris Schultz said the lack of public works staff prevents the township from having someone frequently patrol the dog park. Council added the township is not in a position to add an employee just for cleaning the dog park at this time.

“We no longer have the disposable income to clean up after the public,” Councilman Randy Pace said.

Schultz also said the amount of litter and trash shows the lack of care some visitors have in keeping the park clean.

“The law in Medford is that you pick up after your dog,” he said.

Kauffman said the dog park has been a huge benefit for the township with upward of 300 people visiting it on a nice weather day. She said many of these people are from out of town and are visiting local businesses, providing a financial benefit to the Medford Village area.

The dog park has not been the only place overtaken by litter. Pace said the township’s skate park was full of trash just days after a clean up project he participated in. He also remarked only four people attended the skate park clean up despite heavy advertising.

While the issue of litter appears unresolved, council asked Freedom Barks to speak to the Medford Youth Athletic Association about using a contractor to help clean the park.

In other news:
• After numerous long discussions and debates, council adopted an ordinance regulating donation bins in Medford. The final vote was 3–1, with Pace voting no and Councilman Frank Czekay absent.
Pace fought the ordinance up until the vote, re-iterating there was no need for the township to have such an ordinance. He said a resolution allowing the township to enforce the state statute on donations bins was the only thing they needed to do.
Under the new ordinance, donation bins are banned from municipal property and a $25 fee is attached to any donation bins on private property.

• Schultz gave council a presentation on the township’s health-care plan at the beginning of the meeting. His presentation showed the differences in the township’s current self-funded health plan as opposed to New Jersey health benefits program. The township’s goal is to reduce and stabilize health-care costs through better case management, reduced claims and more awareness among township employees.

• Schultz updated the public on the roadwork project on Chapel Avenue. The road will be closed for much of the summer as a culvert pipe is being replaced. The project, which will cost $170,000, will include new guardrails along the curve on the road. While no specific timeline has been announced, the project will keep the road closed for at least a couple months.

• The next Medford Township council meeting is scheduled for May 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the Public Safety Building.