BATH — With $100,000 in hand from Bath Iron Works to fund improvements at South End Park, the city is studying how to use the money and may present proposals this winter.
The Washington Street park, which sits on the Kennebec River and used to belong to BIW, is a popular venue where dogs can run freely. Whatever improvements are made, the park’s dog-friendly nature will be maintained, city Parks and Recreation Director Steve Balboni said Dec. 5.
“It’s certainly used as a dog park; that’s what we heard from folks,” Balboni said concerning a public meeting held in October. “I think people came into the meeting worried that there were going to be proposed changes that eliminate the dog use, which is not what we (are) looking to do.”
The city wanted to know how people use the park, and what kind of improvements can be made there, Balboni said. With dog owners a major constituency, and traffic safety of concern to others, fencing was one topic discussed, as well as better maintenance throughout the winter, and improved access to the river.
“The whole purpose of that (meeting) was just to gather the information,” Balboni said, noting that during the next two months he and City Planner Andrew Deci will delve more into improvement options and their costs.
Because the park is a “capped” piece of property – it’s build on a layer of clay 18 inches below the surface to contain contaminants in the soil – there are limits to what can be done, Balboni said.
The cap does not necessarily create restrictions, but it could impact costs, he added, noting that “if you were to put in a foundation, you would then have to treat the soil probably in a different way than you would anyplace else.”
Options and information could be provided to the community at a meeting this winter.
“We don’t have to do all of them, we don’t have to do any of them,” Balboni said, adding that the matter is about “what makes it better for the citizens of Bath.”
City Councilor Gregory Page, walking his dog Billy at the park on Dec. 13, said he has been going there since the city took over the property.
“It’s so perfect,” he said, looking beyond the park field to the water. “It speaks for itself.”
Page, elected last month to his first term on the council, noted how dogs are allowed to run off-leash, and praised the social element of the park for dogs and people alike. Dog owners tend to be good about picking up after their canine companions, he said, with bags available at the park’s entrance.
“People come (here) from all over the Mid-Coast,” Page added.
The City Council last year 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.
Since 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.
Gregory Page of Bath walks his dog at South End Park on Dec. 13. The city is looking into how to use funds from Bath Iron Works to make improvements at the Washington Street park.