Standish group hopes to fetch funds for dog park

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STANDISH — Residents have unleashed fundraising efforts to create a dog park in Standish.

Sandra Boutin has been working with other interested residents and town staff to explore the possibility of a space for dogs as part of the town’s ongoing upgrades at Memorial Park off of Route 25.

Standish Parks and Recreation Director Jen DeRice said that Boutin has been “really one of the driving forces” behind the dog park push, which both said is in the early stages.

Along with starting and administering a “Standish Community Dog Park” Facebook page, Boutin collected signatures at last year’s Summer Spectacular from people who indicated an interest in seeing a dog park in town, and then met in fall 2017 with Derice and Standish Public Works Director Roger Mosley.

Boutin described the current group of about 30 dog park proponents as “very informal” and “just a bunch of people trying to raise money and support.”

“We don’t have anything formal yet,” said DeRice, who added that the next step would be to create an ad hoc committee by vote of the Town Council.

Boutin hopes to have an official committee formed by the fall.

Her interest in starting a local dog park grew from taking her 5-year-old rescue dog Molly-Mae to dog parks in the Portland area.

“And I said, why don’t we have something here in Standish that would be more of a community,” said Boutin, who has lived in town with her husband for roughly 30 years. “I think it would be great to build community.”

DeRice said a potential dog park could be part of ongoing improvements at Memorial Park, which is slated for a new playground after town voters approved $18,000 in this year’s election to accompany a more than $53,000 grant. That approved funding did not apply to a dog park, DeRice said. Memorial Park  has already received roadway and parking upgrades.

She estimates that the group would need to raise about $20,000 for fencing, a concrete platform at the entrance, a double gate and a water source for the dogs.

Early plans for the Memorial Park upgrades included about three-quarters of an  acre  for a dog park, DeRice said.

“The space is there,” she noted.

Early fundraising efforts have yielded about $350 and Boutin looks to ramp things up this summer with various partnerships from local businesses, including a June 28 fundraiser at Smitty’s Cinema in Windham and a July 1 “doggy dish” event at Papa’s Ice Cream in Standish.

Donations can also be made to the effort via the Standish Parks and Recreation website.

“People are working on grants – they’ve been investigating other dog parks in the area,” Boutin said.

DeRice has connected with counterparts in Bath and Portland to learn how their towns’ dog parks are managed, and she’s also done some national research. .

Part of the early conversations have touched on whether the park would be free, available to only Standish residents or people from other towns as well, or if it would require membership. DeRice said requiring a park membership could allow the town to have more of a say regarding vaccination requirements and safety within the park. It also would allow the town to contact park users if necessary.

“All of those are something that the committee would need to figure out,” DeRice said, who called safety and cleanliness areas of particular emphasis in the planning process.

She said people already are bringing dogs to town parks and athletic fields, and indicated that owners sometimes leave a little extra fertilizer behind.

“The cleanup is not happening,” DeRice said. “Let’s get them off the athletic fields and give them a designated area.”

Boutin welcomes suggestions, questions and even concerns from members of the community as the dog park push continues.

“All the above – we want to keep it safe and make it something that people want to come to,” she said.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Sandra Boutin is leading an effort to create a dog park in Standish. She says her energetic, “overly friendly” 5-year-old dog Molly-Mae can’t be let off-leash in her neighborhood because she’ll run into neighbors’ yards or chase deer.

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