2016-10-29 / Front Page

Wells residents barking for dog park

By ALAN BENNETT
Staff Writer

WELLS — A pack of Wells residents has proposed developing a town dog park, but local officials are cautious about giving the project the green light.

Sandy MacDougall, a retired Wells resident who owns two golden retrievers, and about 12 other residents have gone to town officials with the idea of establishing the park in hopes of providing more playtime opportunities for dogs and dog owners alike.

Dogs in Wells are required to be held on leashes at all times in public spaces, and are only allowed on the town’s beaches at certain hours during the spring and summer. MacDougall said she agrees the ordinances are necessary, but said she finds them limiting.

Having a dog park, she said, would provide a space for dogs to exercise and for their owners to socialize. She pointed to similar parks in neighboring Kennebunk and Ogunquit as examples.

“I’ve talked to local vets, and they were the ones that really kind of gave me the physical aspects of how much better it is for the dogs to run and roam free,” MacDougall said Friday. “It also creates a community which I noticed in Florida, and certainly in Ogunquit and Kennebunk. It’s also good for people to socialize or meet at certain times of the day.”

Town Manager Jonathan Carter said Friday the Board of Selectmen discussed the idea in a workshop earlier this month and, although the board expressed interest, selectmen felt the group needed to continue its research for talks to become serious.

“(The board) encouraged the group to get a little more of a group together and become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and get better organized with some funding, then come back and talk with the board,” Carter said.

The group has also run into conflict with the town about how the park should be managed. MacDougall said that, while her group would act as “watchdogs” for the space, she doesn’t want to be responsible for maintenance.

Carter, however, said the town’s public works personnel are already have enough to do with their current workload and would have a difficult time with a new undertaking.

“Personally, I think (the park) would be something that would be OK if this group managed it and took care of it. We’re stretched extremely thin with being able to maintain something like that on a regular basis,” Carter said.

MacDougall said the group has yet to determine when they’ll go before the selectmen again and – although several people are interested in the idea – is having trouble recruiting new committee members.

“Until we lock down how this is going to work and where this is going to be, it’s hard to get people involved other than the conversation we are having,” MacDougall said.

The group also has yet to designate a location. Carter said the board provided input as to possible locations for the park, with options along State Route 9B and off Willie Hill Road, near the town’s transfer station, although none of those areas are definite.

The project is estimated to cost about $20,000 for landscaping, fencing and water sources, MacDougall said. She hopes to seek donations from people to defray some of the startup costs, and said the park wouldn’t be a big expense to the town.

Carter said if the proposal continues to be discussed and town property is allocated for the park, the selectmen would have to approve the proposal for it to proceed.

“If they have it on private property, the converse of that is we’re not supposed to be working on private property,” Carter said.

While management negotiations are certain to take place, MacDougall is hopeful her committee will be able to gain traction and the park come to fruition. She believes it will be a useful addition to the town, and will serve as an attraction to the area.

“It’d be good to have it be a part of what Wells offers, and people with dogs that come from out of town can have a place to go,” she said. “I do think it should be something the town of Wells takes over as part of their town programming.”

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or abennett@journaltribune.com.

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