By Thane Grauel

WESTPORT — The fur babies will run free at Winslow Park during the Westport Dog Festival in May.

A challenge to the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce’s use of the park for a seventh year was debated Wednesday before the Parks and Recreation Commission. It failed to fetch sufficient opposition.

Some neighbors expressed concerns about the use of the park for an event that charges admission fees. Traffic and parking issues also were mentioned.

The agenda item before the commission Wednesday was a request by the chamber to hang banners on the fence of the park.

The chamber sought permission for two banners — one near the Westport Country Playhouse entrance, where most of the parking is, and another near the corner of Post Road East and Compo Road.

Commission Chairman David Floyd allowed a wider discussion regarding use of the park for the May 21 event, based on the concerns raised mainly by Jennifer Johnson, a former Parks and Recreation Commission member and former Representative Town Meeting member, and Marcia Falk, a Planning and Zoning Commission member.

Johnson had concerns about using town parks for monetized events. She said she heard from a family that wanted to the visit the park with friends during the event, and the price tag was $60.

“It’s a very, very expensive event,” Johnson said.

“Winslow Park, as you know, is a beautiful 29-acre public park in the heart of our town,” Falk said. “It’s a wonderful space for public use. “Capital P for public use.”

“Having a dog festival at the park is problematic,” she said.

Chris Tait, a Representative Town Meeting member from District 1, said he lives near the beach, and the Fourth of July fireworks are what they are, with traffic and whatnot.

“These community events happen,” Tait said. “Six hours” –referring to festival’s duration.

Perhaps throwing a bone to the neighbors, the commission approved only one Dog Festival banner for the chamber, rather than two, for 10 days.

Thane Grauel, executive editor, grew up in Westport and has been a journalist in Fairfield County and beyond more than three decades. Reach him at editor@westportjournal.com. Learn more about us here