2016-12-29 / Front Page

Wells one paw closer to dog park

Staff Writer

WELLS — For months, some Wells residents have been barking at town officials to establish a town dog park, a matter the Board of Selectmen discussed for the second time in a workshop prior to its meeting on Dec. 20. 

Sandy MacDougall, a retired Wells resident who owns two dogs, and about 12 other residents went to town officials in October with the idea of establishing the park. She said at the time the group wants to provide more playtime opportunities for both dogs and dog owners.

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 could not be reached for comment Wednesday but said in October that, although she agrees with the town’s ordinances, she finds them limiting. She said having the park would provide a space for dogs to exercise and their owners to socialize.

“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 told the Journal Tribune in October.

Town Manager Jonathan Carter said at the time that the selectmen had run into conflict with the town about how the park should be managed. MacDougall said her group wanted to act as “watchdogs” for the space, but didn’t want to be responsible for maintenance.

But the town’s public works personnel already have enough on their plate, and the selectmen had also been unsure of where a park would be located, Carter said in October.

Carter said Wednesday he and his staff have been working with the group since then and are in the process of securing about $5,000 in seed money to design a park on a portion of town-owned land near the intersection of Route 109 and North Berwick Road (Route 9).

Carter said the seed money comes from a reserve account used for payment from animal shelters, animal control and dog registrations and will go toward establishing costs such as design, water, electricity and land-clearing costs.

"We had in the folks that were interested in wanting to move a dog park forward in the town," Carter said. "What we were trying to do was release some seed money so that we could further define the cost of a dog park, design a dog park with a landscape architect, and bring it back to the Board of Selectmen and see if this working group can come up with some dollars to make it happen."

The project is estimated to cost about $20,000 for landscaping, fencing and water sources. The group is hoping to seek donations from people to defray some of the startup costs. Carter said the group is believed to have someone who is willing to contribute a large amount of funding, although that is yet to be confirmed.

“The selectmen were very interested long-term in how to make it sustainable,” he said. “What they were concerned about was ongoing costs of the town and they wanted this group to have some buy-in to help maintain it over the long-term.

“A couple of the selectmen are concerned that at the end of the day the town will end up operating this dog park at the town's cost,” he said.

MacDougall previously said she believed the park would be a useful addition to the town. She also said the park would serve as an attraction to the area, in turn bringing more money into the town.

“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.”

Carter previously said the selectmen had suggested the group consider becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to secure funding, but the group did not do so. He did say the residents are in the process working with the town to become organized.

“This working group is rethinking how they can approach and make this a sustainable venture with volunteers and the use of perhaps a nonprofit that they can locate that can become a partner,” he said. “Clearly, we’re very early in this whole process and we’ll have to see how it shakes out.”

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

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