Brunswick dog park options to be explored

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BRUNSWICK — A majority of town councilors encouraged a citizens group  to continue to research the possibility of creating a dog park.

Brunswick Area Recreation for Kanines (sic), or BARK, has been working with the Parks and Recreation Department to develop a plan for a park that would allow off-leash dogs on a piece of municipal property.

Parks and Recreation Director Thomas Farrell said there are about 2,500 licensed dogs in Brunswick and no place for them to run off-leash.

“Dog parks have become per se, part of the municipal landscape,” he said, adding a large number of options have been researched based on other municipally owned dog parks in the state.

Farrell said the willingness of BARK to raise funding to create and maintain the park for the first two years is an “extremely attractive” option. He said estimated costs for maintenance by Parks and Recreation staff could run between $1,000 and $2,000 per year. Most of the cost involved is related to trash removal, he said.

Farrell said the group has looked at several sites owned by the town as potential dog park locations, including property expected to be received on the Brunswick Naval Air Station property and in east Brunswick. BARK is looking for about two acres.

So far, BARK has done very little fundraising, member Sally Loving said. She said there has been a need for a dog park in Brunswick for at least 10 years and noted there could be an economic boost if the park is approved.

“I’ve received a number of letters and e-mails from outside Brunswick,” Loving said. “People come to shop in the area and said if there was a dog park, they would shop (in Brunswick). There’s even (a smart-phone) ‘app’ for finding a dog park.”

She said real estate professionals and new homeowners have expressed disappointment there is not an existing dog park in Brunswick.

Councilor Margo Knight asked why the dog park cannot be located at Davis Memorial Park, which is designated in the draft downtown master plan as a recreation area. Farrell said there are other recreational uses planned, including an expanded playground for young children, that may not be compatible with a dog park.

“One of the other things to not underestimate is the need for parking,” he said, adding there is sparse parking available near Davis Memorial Park.

Farrell said he also would be concerned with restricting the use of one of the only green areas downtown.

Another area discussed for a dog park is a 66-acre parcel the town expects to receive when BNAS closes, he said.  But a potential problem with the site is “resource and habitat value,” Farrell said: there may not be enough usable property to establish anticipated recreational areas such as ball fields, a playground and a maintenance building. He said the exact location of the 66-acre parcel has not been determined. 

A few area residents spoke in favor of establishing a dog park, including Harpswell resident Doug Johnson, who described a dog park in Florida.

“It’s a great place to meet people and our dog absolutely loved it,” he said, adding dog owners are considerate about cleaning up after other people’s dogs when the need arises.

MacMillan Drive resident Lori Lach said she often travels to Belfast with her dog and said she would like to see a dog park created in Brunswick.

“I really support this,” she said.

Councilors asked a few questions, but encouraged BARK and Parks and Recreation staff to continue to research possibilities for locations and funding for the dog park. Councilor Suzan Wilson suggested there may be alternatives to municipal ownership of a dog park, such as a nonprofit organization or a booster club.

Councilor Debbie Atwood said as a new dog owner, she believes “any municipality should have a facility like this.” She said after taking her own puppy to a dog park in Bath, she stayed there and spent money because it was convenient once the dog settled down from running at the park.

Council Chairman Joanne King cautioned other councilors about additional money spent by supporting Parks and Recreation staff research leading to nothing if the council does not ultimately approve the creation of a dog park.

Councilor Benet Pols joked that the old Times Record building could be researched as an alternative location, while Loving commented from the audience, “We’ll take it.”

Councilors requested additional information, including alternative locations and more financial information, from BARK before they address the issue again.

Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or