Revised Cumberland proposal varies dog leash areas, times

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CUMBERLAND — With residents taking opposing sides on mandatory leashing of dogs on public lands, a new suggestion going to the Town Council next week seeks compromise.

After two hours of discussion June 2 on a proposed town code amendment requiring dogs to be leashed on all public lands, the council tabled the proposal a second time, to allow the Ordinance Committee to take another look.

What the committee has come up with for the July 14 council meeting reflects a suggestion by Wildwood neighborhood resident Nancy Savage Marcus, who proposed allowing dogs off-leash half the day on some public lands, while they would have to be leashed on others. It would provide people options for letting their dogs run off-leash, or for avoiding off-leash dogs altogether.

The Ordinance Committee has proposed that all dogs be leashed in the morning on the Greely Road side of Twin Brook, and be on voice command in the afternoon, from March 1 to Dec. 1.

Voice control would be allowed on the Tuttle Road side of Twin Brook in the morning, while leashes would be required in the afternoon from March 1 to Dec. 1 on the Tuttle Road side. No dogs would be allowed there from Dec. 2 to Feb. 28, so that groomed ski trails can be maintained.

Leashes would also be required at the Town Forest in the morning, and at the seven-acre West Cumberland athletic complex and playground at all times.

Voice command would always be allowed at the Rines Forest, and from Dec. 2 to Feb. 28 at the Val Halla Golf & Recreation Center; dogs would not be allowed at Val Halla the rest of the year, during golf season.

During the time of year they would be allowed at Twin Brook, dogs would have to be on leashes during organized activities on the Tuttle Road side, and from March 1 to Dec. 1 on the Greely Road side. Voice control would be allowed at the Greely Road side from Dec. 2 to Feb. 28, and at Val Halla during that time of year.

Councilor Shirley Storey-King, who serves on the Ordinance Committee, said the new proposal is intended, in part, to satisfy people who are afraid of dogs, but still want access to the parks.

“This seems like a nice compromise,” she said.

Regardless whether a leash law is in place or voice command is allowed, no more than two dogs would be allowed with any one person at any time.

“If you have three dogs, maybe a husband and wife can take the dogs out together, or a person and a friend,” Storey-King suggested. “… If you’re a dog walker and you’ve got six dogs, take them two at a time,” or have other people help, she said.

Signs would be posted on all public lands, indicating what kind of dog control is permitted at any particular time.

Voice command means people must have visual contact with their dog, Storey-King said. The dog must return immediately to that person and remain by their side in response to a verbal command.

“On a trail, you can’t just let them run way ahead and around a corner, and not be able to see them if someone else is approaching,” Storey-King said.

Town Manager Bill Shane said “We’re really going to work hard on the educational piece of this, versus the enforcement piece, right out of the gate. It’s going to take people some time to understand it.”

“This is the first step,” Storey-King said. “We’re still counting on people to be responsible dog owners. We still want them to clean up after their dogs, we want them to be respectful of one another. Not everyone likes dogs; some people love dogs. So some improved communication among users of the park (would be good).”

Contract zone

The Town Council on July 14 will also consider a contract zone agreement with resident Justin Fletcher. He would like to split his lot at 3 Longwoods Road (Route 9) in exchange for deeding the town one acre of land for an approximately 500-foot connection of Harris Road to Route 9.

The agreement would allow Fletcher to have either a single-family home or duplex on each of the lots. Density standards currently allow only one single-family home or duplex on the lot.

The Planning Board unanimously recommended passage last month, Shane said.

Most concerns surrounding the road connection relate to speed and safety, as well as the condition of the existing Harris Road and a potential increase in traffic there, he explained. The council may look at restricting trucks, and minimizing street lighting, the manager said, noting that speed tables could address speeding.

The connection of Harris Road with Route 9 is consistent with Cumberland’s Comprehensive Plan, Shane said. Storey-King noted that it would be  means of improving connectivity.

“One of the goals with our Comprehensive Plan is fewer dead-ends,” she said.

A private connection does exist, owned by Fletcher and used by people who have purchased an easement to it. Should the town take possession, that connection would be upgraded to town subdivision standards.

Since one of the homes on Fletcher’s lots could be built next to a former junkyard, the Planning Board asked for pre-construction water testing, Shane said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.