BATH — In a series of straw votes Wednesday, the City Council approved improvements to South End Park.
The work will be funded with $100,000 from Bath Iron Works.
The Washington Street riverside park, which previously belonged to the nearby shipyard, is a popular venue where dogs can run freely. Several residents at Wednesday’s public hearing called for improvements that would make the park friendly to humans and canines alike.
City staff had held meetings in October 2014 and last month to gather input from the community on what improvements, if any, should be made to the park.
Expanded parking, a seasonal water station for dogs, new signs, and more trash cans and benches were among suggestions received. This led staff to present three options to the public, varying by the degree of fencing.
One proposed an enclosure in the middle of the park, a second called for fencing in most of the park, and no fencing at all was the third option, according to Parks and Recreation Director Steve Balboni.
With none of the ideas gaining strong support, Bruce Kaake of West Street developed a fourth option, dubbed “Configuration X,” much of which the City Council ended up supporting Wednesday.
Kaake called for fencing, with three gates, to be pushed close to Washington Street and the parking area in order to maximize open space in the park. He also proposed no fencing along the shore, so that the view of the river would not be obstructed.
Solar-powered lighting was also part of Kaake’s option, as well as blocking of a “goat path” to a marsh from which dogs often emerge muddy, and improving nearby rip-rap with gravel to allow better, and cleaner, access to the river.
Kaake said he collected 125 signatures – which he presented to the council – in favor of his proposal.
Council support was unanimous in two straw polls for the fencing outlined in Configuration X, and for having an interior pathway on the Washington Street side of the park that is separate from an existing sidewalk. Most councilors favored looking into the lighting, and improving the “goat path,” but saw both as less of a priority.
Dogs would continue to be allowed off-leash at the park, with fencing geared toward keeping them from running into Washington Street or the parking lot.
Kent Eliassen, who lives across from the park, said he has never seen an issue with how the dogs interact with people. But he has frequently noticed dogs crossing the street from the park and into his yard when he walks his own dogs, he said.
“They’re normally very friendly, but there’ve been a number of times when the dog has almost been hit by a car, running across the street,” Eliassen said, advocating fencing near areas of vehicle travel.
The fence would be 4 feet tall, City Planner Andrew Deci said.
Sandra Johnson of High Street said she did not see the point of erecting any fences in the park, supporting the openness of the space.
“I just don’t want it to become a dogs-only kind of place,” she noted. “I want it to be a people-friendly place as well. … I just hope that I will always be welcome there as a non-dog owner.”
Bruce Kaake’s proposal for improvements to South End Park in Bath. Many of the Bath resident’s suggestions received City Council support Wednesday.