New Gloucester Selectmen will look into placing a dog park at the site of the old town dump following a request from residents who want a public place to bring their four-legged friends.
The board voted 4-1 Monday, with Pamela Slye dissenting, to walk the lot across from the fairgrounds, check on the town’s liability in regard to a dog park and discuss with the state Department of Environmental Protection the viability of using a portion of the old dump site.
Selectmen also said that no town funds would be available to establish the dog park, and they worried about who would maintain and police the park.
Resident Carol Swanson, who first brought the proposal to the town’s Parks and Recreation Committee in January, said she has demonstrated community support for the project and believes volunteers could raise the funds to fence in the area and maintain it. The board’s tepid response to the dog park idea is maddening, Swanson said, and it seems like they are hoping she will just go away.
“They’re just throwing roadblocks up on me,” said Swanson.
Since first broaching the idea 10 months ago, Swanson has heard from residents throughout town who support her proposal, many of whom have offered to volunteer building and cleaning the park.
“I’ve got 400 signatures of people who want this dog park,” said Swanson. “How can you just overlook that?”
Lila Littlefield, who has three huskies and two Labrador retrievers, said she would love to have a fenced area in which to exercise her dogs.
“They need to run,” she said.
Dog parks are generally self-policing, with the residents who regularly visit the park making sure to keep it clean and safe. There are plenty of people around New Gloucester who would pitch in to buy and erect the fence, and to clean the area once it is up and running, Littlefield said.
“You’ve got a volunteer base,” she said.
Jane Bailey has always had two dogs, but her schnauzer-scottie mix is now the only mutt in the house and she would love a park where he could get the interaction he needs with other dogs.
A closer look
Residents who wish to join Swanson’s effort to establish a dog park can contact her at:
Residents who either support or oppose the creation of a dog park in New Gloucester can contact the town office at:
A dog park would also allow a place to meet her neighbors, something that is sorely needed in New Gloucester, she said.
“You get to meet people. You become familiar with them. Then you see them in the grocery store and you say hi,” Bailey said.
While the Parks and Recreation Committee approved of the proposal in general, it rejected her plan to put the park at the fairgrounds, where the town has future plans for a ball field and playground. Swanson suggested a spot near the Rowe Station tennis courts, but was rebuffed in July by selectmen, who suggested she find another site.
Swanson and her husband Bruce then identified as a perfect spot the old dump area, which has a 1 1/2-acre flat spot that would accommodate a one-acre dog park and a small parking area.
“It’s a safe place,” said Swanson. “Bald Hill is not a busy, busy road. It’s not a dark location.”
The Swansons contacted the Department of Environmental Protection, which said the covered dump would make a perfect spot for a dog park as long as the fence posts did not penetrate the landfill’s protection cover, said Bruce Swanson. The site’s limitations make it the perfect spot for a park, he said.
“You can’t use that land for anything else,” he said.
Selectman Steven Libby said it seemed like a good location, as long as the state signed off on it and there was enough usable space. He wondered about the lack of parking, however, and worried that overflow would end up at the fairgrounds and pedestrians would be crossing the road. Libby also said the town budget is too tight to fit in the dog park project.
“Unless the funds were not to be town funds, we would not be able to do this,” he said.
Slye read a letter from a resident arguing that her taxes had gone up enough already and she would not appreciate having to pay for a luxury like a dog park. The selectwoman said others in town probably feel the same way.
Outside after the meeting, Swanson wondered how the board could use one letter to refute the almost 400 signatures she has collected. It’s just another way for the town to push off the decision until she gives up, Swanson believes.
“I’m going to keep moving forward,” she said.
Carol Swanson hopes she will soon have a place in New Gloucester to bring her dog Honey. For the last 10 months, Swanson has been trying to convince town officials to create a dog park on town-owned land. Around 400 residents have come forward to support her proposal, but selectmen have not shown much interest, she said.