Brunswick unleashed: Dog park opens this weekend
BRUNSWICK — The grass is mowed, the fences are up, and the dogs are waiting.
Saturday, June 8, will mark the opening of the town's dog park, the result of a four-year, citizen-led initiative by the Brunswick Area Recreation for Kanines group to provide an unleashed haven for mutts.
Merrymeeting Dog Park in Memory of Jake Horgan will open at 10 a.m. with a brief dedication ceremony, followed by a ribbon-cutting at 10:30 a.m.
Dogs should be kept on leash until after the ceremony is completed. The rain date for the event is Sunday.
Situated along the Androscoggin River Bicycle and Pedestrian Path, near the Water Street entrance, the park is enclosed by a 6-foot-tall, chain-link fence with double gates at the two entrances. The larger park enclosure is for all dogs while a smaller one is for dogs under 25 pounds.
Current amenities include benches and dog-waste bag dispensers. A gazebo and water line will be installed later this year.
Local dog trainers and veterinarians will be available at Saturday's event to answer questions about dog etiquette – an important thing for dog owners to consider when going to the park, BARK spokeswoman Sally Loving said.
"The most important thing is that (owners) know their dogs well enough to know if he or she is going to be comfortable at the park with other dogs," Loving said. "When they bring their dog, bring them at an off-time (when park use is low), scope out the area and make sure the dog is comfortable."
An 18-page user guide for Merrymeeting Dog Park is available on BARK's website at barkmaine.org.
The guide contains a list of the park's rules and the rationale for those rules. Also included are tips on how to prepare a dog for its first park visit, how to handle different kinds of canine interactions and how to deal with situations that get out of control.
"The best dog parks are used by educated users. (They are) people that know what to expect and what to do if there are problems," Loving said. "Most problems are very minor and they usually involve a dog that is not comfortable; they'll have to be taken to an area by themselves to calm down."
The rules include a requirement to dispose of pet waste immediately and a limit of no more than three dogs admitted per adult. Children under age 4 are prohibited, and children between 4 and 13 must be accompanied by an adult.
The park also prohibits aggressive dogs, female dogs in heat, and dogs that haven't been licensed and vaccinated as required by state law. The law also requires owners to take sole liability of any damages or injuries caused by their dog.
Loving said that park visitors are encouraged to take notice of offenders and ask them to leave. If a situation gets really out of control, she said, animal control staff or police should be contacted by calling 725-5521.
"It's really about the safety of the dogs and safety of people who come here," Loving said. "These rules come from years of experience from trainers and other dog parks."
The land for the park was already owned by the town before park construction began, and will continue to be maintained by the Parks and Recreation Department.
Development of the park was made possible by the fundraising efforts of BARK, which raised nearly $50,000 in private funds for the construction and amenities of the park.
"I think the important piece for me to get out is fewer than 10 people devoted more than three years of their lives (to this project)," Loving said. "They donated a lot of money. They gave up weekends and nights for three years – it was almost every weekend for a lot of us. They worked really hard, but they also built this great coalition for this town."
Loving said BARK also received support from the town, which approved the project; People Plus, which became the group's fiscal sponsor; Brunswick Downtown Association, which helped the group with its fundraising efforts; and the Coastal Humane Society, which hosted informational events for dog owners and helped with promotional efforts.
Loving said there also are many other organizations and individuals to thank for the completion of the dog park.
"We didn't go to government and say, 'give us a dog park,'" she said. "(We said,) 'we understand the economic situation and we're going to do it ourselves.'"