BATH — Improvements to South End Park are expected to be completed next spring.
The Planning Board in August unanimously approved a site plan amendment for the Washington Street riverside park, which previously was owned by Bath Iron Works. The approval followed a straw vote of support in May by the City Council for the improvements.
The work is being funded by BIW; the shipyard gave the city $100,000 in return for being granted a contract zone agreement to build an outfitting hall. City Planner Andrew Deci said Dec. 9 that he expects the project to remain within budget.
With the park a popular venue where dogs can run freely, residents had called for improvements to make it friendlier to humans and canines alike.
So far, expanded parking and a line for a seasonal water station for dogs have been completed, as well as new fencing, Parks and Recreation Department Director Steve Balboni said Dec. 9.
“We’re moving right along, it looks great, and we’ve had a lot of compliments about it,” he explained.
Anna Pertel of Bath, walking her dog at the park Dec. 12, echoed that sentiment.
“I love it, because every time someone drives in, (my dog) has to go greet them,” she said, noting that the new fencing prevents her pet from running into the parking lot or Washington Street and risking injury, but that the park still provides the space dogs need to run freely.
The parking lot has been expanded from 15 spots to about 30, Balboni said.
City staff had proposed several options for improvements that varied with the degree of fencing, but the City Council ended up supporting most of the components in an option suggested by Bruce Kaake of West Street in May.
Kaake called for fencing, with three gates to be placed close to Washington Street and the parking area, in order for the park’s open space to be maximized. He also proposed no fencing along the shore, so the view of the river would not be obstructed.
New signs and more trash cans and benches are to be added next spring. An additional path inside the fence is to be built so pedestrians do not have to follow a loop that takes them through a gate, outside the fence, and then back through another gate.
Since the project sits on a piece of property that was “capped”– built on a layer of clay 18 inches below the surface to contain contaminants in the soil – it required approval from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. While the fence posts were driven through the cap, the area around the posts was sealed.
“We’re moving right along, it looks great, and we’ve had a lot of compliments about it,” he said. “Some cleanup in the spring needs to happen, but we’ve been lucky with the weather that we’ve got a good chunk of it done.”
Michelle Sanborn of West Bath, at left, was one of many visitors Dec. 12 at South End Park in Bath. New fencing and expanded parking are among improvements recently made at the dog-friendly venue.