NORFOLK, Va. — On July 31, the sun will set in Norfolk at 8:13 p.m. The popular Ghent Dog Park officially closes at 7:30 p.m. It's in that short period, while the sun is still up, that four people have been issued citations for trespassing.

"I feel like it's a dog park and there shouldn't be this much drama involved," former Ghent Dog Park Association President Adryan Clapp said.

After persistent complaints from some neighbors, Norfolk Police officers issued four court summonses for trespassing between June 28 and July 4. Clapp said she can't blame the enforcement of the rules. 

“The officers themselves - no one wants to ticket someone that’s just letting their dog play, it’s a no-win situation," Clapp said. "They don’t like doing it they’ve just been told that they have to."

A Norfolk judge dismissed all four cases Wednesday morning. Norfolk Police spokesman Daniel Hudson said the four summonses are the only ones issued in 2019.

Ghent Dog Park's 7:30 p.m. closing time is unique. Clapp said it's the only dog park in Norfolk that doesn't close at sundown, which can be confusing. The park's hours were changed in 2018 to allow more park time in the winter months when the sun could set as early as 5 p.m. 

However, in the summer, the dog park now closes before sunset.

“There are much bigger things happening in our country and our area, this is very much a first-world issue," Clapp said. "I hate that police officers are being pulled from areas that are much more in need of their services."

She said a small number of neighbors call Norfolk Police when they see dog owners and their pets in the park after the 7:30 p.m.

Dog owner Ken Penn said the whole situation is wild, adding he was warned once after he stayed at the park too late and now he doesn’t risk it.

“I don’t really come here after 5 p.m., I just walk around the neighborhood so I don’t accidentally stay overtime," Penn said.

Clapp believes extended summer hours could fix the situation, but for now, she recommends everyone stay out of the park after closing time. Clapp said anyone who wants to change the closing time should join the Ghent Neighborhood League and request a change with the city.

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