Bath council to hear options for dog-friendly park

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BATH — Options for using $100,000 to fund improvements at South End Park will go before the City Council early next month.

The Washington Street riverside park, which previously belonged to nearby Bath Iron Works, is a popular venue where dogs can run freely. The park’s dog-friendly nature will be maintained regardless of what improvements are made, city Parks and Recreation Director Steve Balboni has said.

The City Council in 2013 granted BIW a contract zone agreement to build a more than 51,000-square-foot outfitting hall, since the 110-foot height of the outfitting hall exceeds the 75-foot maximum in the Industrial/Shipyard zone.

Because contract rezoning requires a public benefit in exchange, BIW agreed to create a buffer between its main parking lot and Washington Street. It gave the city $100,000 for improvements to South End Park, to be used at the council’s discretion.

City staff 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, Balboni said April 16. Staff presented 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 comprised the third.

The first garnered little support, so a fourth option, a mix of the second and third, is also being proposed, Balboni said. Both Washington Street and the parking area would be fenced off, to prevent dogs from running into the paths of vehicles.

“Everybody felt pretty good about expanded parking, better signage, park benches and water stations,” Balboni said. “It really comes down to the fencing piece. … Some people feel any fencing is too much, and some people feel we need more fencing, just for the protection of the dogs.”

The park currently has about 14 paved spaces, and eight to 10 more could be added, Balboni said.

Project costs are still being determined, with engineering yet to be done. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection must also review the project.

“Our best estimate is, we’ll be fairly close to that $100,000,” Balboni said.

City Planner Andrew Deci will present the various options to the City Council for consideration Wednesday, May 6.

“Staff is not … making a recommendation; we’re just bringing out findings to (the) council,” Balboni said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Sidebar Elements

Tim Greenman of Phippsburg, right, holds up a ball for his dog, Meya, a 16-month-old chocolate Labrador retriever, at the Bath Dog Park on Friday, April 17. Greenman and Meya are regular visitors, and he said they love the park.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.