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BRUNSWICK — Dog owners will soon have a dedicated space to exercise their pets when a public dog park opens in June near the Water Street neighborhood.
An initiative to open the park has nearly reached its $40,000 fundraising goal, prompting the Town Council on Feb. 4 to unanimously authorize solicitation of bid for the park’s development.
The council also approved the park’s official name as a memorial to a dog lover who died last December.
Merrymeeting Dog Park in Memory of Jake Horgan is expected to open as early as June 1 on a crescent-shaped piece of land east of Route 196. The land is accessible from the Androscoggin River Bicycle and Pedestrian Path, which connects Water Street and Grover Lane.
Tom Farrell, director of parks and recreation, said maintaining the dog park will require no extra expense because the town already owns the land.
Sally Loving, a resident who led the project with Brunswick Area Recreation for Kanines over the past three years, said it will be the first place in town where owners can unleash their canines without worrying about them running off.
“For a long time people have been talking about this and we really do need (a park) because increasingly there’ s just fewer and fewer places to let dogs run off leash,” Loving said.
Loving said owners currently can bring their dogs to the athletic fields at Bowdoin College, but there are no fences to contain the pets.
The dog park will address that problem by having a 5-foot-tall fence with a double-gated entry, Loving said.
Besides addressing safety issues, Loving said the dog park will go a long way to creating a better community for humans and canines alike.
“Dogs benefit dramatically from exercise and socialization,” Loving said. “Those are the two key ingredients for having an ordered universe.”
The dog park also will be partitioned to separate small dogs from large dogs, Loving said, because they don’t always get along.
Beyond the direct benefits to the community, Loving said the dog park can help attract tourists and residents from other communities, and encourage business growth in the nearby downtown area.
“It’s a great amenity for a town that is essentially rebuilding itself,” Loving said. “Amenities are good ways for a town to attract new business, new residents and stay vital. The Realtors tell us that all the time.”
Horgan, the park’s namesake, grew up with a compassion for animals, according to his father, Dr. Matthew Horgan, a local veterinarian.
“Every time he was home, the first thing he would want to do is see my dog Finn. We used to go to Popham Beach with that dog,” Horgan said. “… I think he found it very relaxing. It was something he really connected with. He really enjoyed hanging around animals … He had a pretty good talent for working with them.”
Loving said Dr. Horgan has been a major donor for the dog park.
“He’s been very helpful to us in all kinds of manners and his son just loved dogs,” Loving said.
While the dog park has been given the green light, Loving said she hopes the project can reach its fundraising goal for extra amenities, including a small gazebo and some water fountains. As of Feb. 2, the project has raised $35,800 of its $40,000 goal.
A 2011 sketch by Anthony Muench of the Merrymeeting Dog Park In Memory of Jake Horgan, which will open in June on the Androscoggin River Bicycle and Pedestrian Path.