YARMOUTH — Letting one’s dog run off-leash in town may one day be a literal walk in the park.
The new Bark Park Subcommittee of the town’s Parks and Lands Committee is looking for a space that could provide a play area for local canines. Yarmouth Community Services is also involved in the initiative, which seeks public involvement and input.
There are nearly 1,200 licensed dogs in town, but only one place they can run off-leash: the picnic point area of Royal River Park, subcommittee coordinator Mary Webber said Feb. 8.
In other areas dogs are required to be on-leash and under voice control at all times.
The Parks and Lands Committee voted unanimously last month to have the subcommittee explore the feasibility of a dog park.
“I would say that dogs are the No. 1 one issue that we on the Parks and Lands Committee deal with, absolutely,” four-year member Webber said while seated at a Royal River Park picnic table with her dog, Indy. “For every park in Yarmouth we have conflicting user groups.”
The need for a place for dogs to run off-leash and commune freely with other dogs has been a town topic for the past 10 years, Webber said. Discussions on the matter over the past decade at neighboring Cumberland’s Twin Brook Recreation Area – where dogs can be off leash, but under voice control in a limited areas during restricted hours – inspired those talks.
“Dogs are family,” Webber said. “I don’t own my dog; he’s my family and he needs to be provided for. And the sentiment in this town toward people’s dogs is extraordinary.”
Yarmouth is a relatively small town, “but in terms of public lands, we’ve got a lot,” she continued, noting that thanks to the combination of three parcels, the Riverfront Woods Preserve will soon total nearly 51 acres.
A place with suitable land totaling at least 5 acres that doesn’t get muddy easily would be good, Webber said. Benches would be available for the dogs’ human companions.
“But it will be a dog-focused park,” she said, pointing to her dog-shaped earrings.
The subcommittee seeks ideas of where a dog park could be sited, and the panel’s recommendations will go before Yarmouth Community Services Director Karyn MacNeill and Town Manager Nat Tupper.
“They know every inch of the town intimately,” Webber said, noting constraints on some of the considered pieces, such as conservation easements, are “stunning.”
Tupper and MacNeill’s final recommendations would possibly go this spring to the Town Council, which has backed the concept of a leash-free park, Webber said.
Those willing to offer ideas, or donate time, expertise or money, can reach Webber at email@example.com.
For the project to move forward, “we need to explore potential locations and determine what the land, infrastructure, amenities and funding requirements would be for such a park,” Parks and Lands Committee Chairman Jay Waterman stated last week in a project press release.
Webber is all about picking out the amenities.
“I have catalogs at home this high, with doggy furniture,” she said, holding her hand above the table and laughing.
Mary Webber, left, is among residents exploring locations for a leash-free “Bark Park” in Yarmouth, where she walks her dog Feb. 8 with fellow dog-owners Steve and Joyce Bell, and Joe Long.