Council gives paws up to dog park plan

161

WESTBROOK — The City Council unanimously approved a plan for a larger dog park Monday night, two years after it rejected a similar proposal. 

At the time, councilors were concerned about a lack of community feedback. 

Since then, Mike Lahr, who created the proposed plan, has focused on gathering community input through meetings with local residents and collecting feedback from the 155 members of the Westbrook Dog Park Facebook group.

Lahr said the park’s design is not yet finalized, but the council approved the proposal and agreed to move forward with the project. 

The proposed design for the park has also shifted from being a flat rectangle to being “more natural.”

“It’s going to be a much more organic park now. We’ll do excavation to help with drainage, there will be curves to it, it will be in the woods a bit. We’re going to be using things like big boulders and downed trees and wood chips to make a more natural feeling park,” Lahr said. 

The budget has also increased to $100,000. The group has raised $65,000 so far from state and local grants and a $25,000 proposed pledge from Idexx. 

Lahr said the group will raise the rest through grants and fundraising. 

“There will be no taxpayer money going to this,” council President Gary Rairdon said in an interview. 

Lahr said the park will save the city money since it will no longer have to mow and maintain the field, which would instead be covered with wood chips. 

He added that the dog park will include picnic tables so that even people who don’t have dogs may enjoy the space: “They can sit with family and watch the dogs playing. We’re taking more of a holistic approach to this.” 

Lahr said he hopes to complete fundraising for the project this year. 

The existing dog park, at the corner of William Clarke and Hannford, opened in 2017 and was part of a larger dog park proposal that was to be funded through a donation from Idexx. However, only the first portion of the plan was built, and the park is underused and not well-kept, according to Lahr. 

Anyone interested in donating to the dog park can do so via the group’s GoFundMe at www.gofundme.com/westbrook-barks. 

Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at jvaughan@keepmecurrent.com. 

The Westbrook Dog Park group’s new logo was designed by Jacqie Lyman.