BRUNSWICK — For some dogs, a quiet walk on a leash just doesn’t cut it.
While there are many fields in town where dogs are allowed to run off-leash, none are enclosed enough to provide peace of mind to owners who worry their pets may chase after a squirrel and never return.
Now a group of volunteers called Brunswick Area Recreation for Kanines (sic) is trying to change that by building a fenced-in, one-acre dog park along the Androscoggin River bike path. The park would be the first of its kind between Yarmouth and Belfast.
Sally Loving, the group’s spokeswoman, said it will be great for dogs, their owners, and the town.
“We have a lot of amenities, and this is just one more,” she said.
Loving said a quarter of area households own at least one dog, and she believes there is a lot of interest in having a dog park.
“People have repeatedly told us that they will come to the dog park either every day or several times a week, and it’s another reason for them to shop in Brunswick,” she said.
Economic development aside, Loving said a dog park simply makes dogs happier, more enjoyable pets.
“Running free is so critical to a dog’s socialization, because they interact so differently when they’re off leash,” she said.
Dog owners also benefit from dog parks, Loving said, because well-exercised dogs are less likely to bark and be nuisances at home. In addition, parks bring dog owners together and create a sense of community, she said.
And of course, watching them play can be great entertainment.
When they’re off the leash at a dog park, “they go into this play mode, which is really fun for everyone to watch,” Loving said.
BARK organized a year and a half ago, when a group of dog owners got together to talk about a need for more dog-friendly open spaces and recreation areas in the greater Brunswick area.
Initially, the group hoped to find a home for a dog park at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, but when those plans fell through they expanded their search.
At heart, many BARK volunteers wanted the dog park in Brunswick, Loving said, and so they were thrilled when the Town Council expressed interest in hosting them. In March, the council gave BARK the OK to go ahead with fundraising for the park on town land near the bike path.
An architect’s rendering of the project shows a crescent-shaped park in a field just beyond the Route 196 bridge. The park will be divided into two sections, with the smaller one reserved especially for small dogs. The park will include a rain shelter, benches, trash receptacles and shrubbery to divide the park from the bike path.
BARK is relying on private donations to fund the $50,000 project. The group has raised just over $10,000 since beginning its campaign in May.
Tom Farrell, director of parks and recreation, said the town already maintains the site where the dog park would be located, so there would be no additional cost to the town.
The group has sponsored rallies, with dogs invited, on the future site of the dog park to raise money and awareness about the project. Loving said she is optimistic BARK will complete its fundraising and start construction by next spring, with a fall 2012 opening.