Dog Park Might Not Be Mission Impawssible

Despite Some Concerns, Bar Harbor Dog Park Bounds Closer To Reality

BAR HARBOR—In an island full of parks reserved for humans, MDI is one step closer to getting a park for dogs.

The Bar Harbor Town Council unanimously agreed for the town to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Friends of the Bar Harbor Dog Park, increasing the likelihood of a dog park at an area of the town’s athletic fields off Park Street.

The plan to construct a fenced-in park for canines in a spot between the basketball court and Cromwell Brook was recommended by the Parks and Recreation Committee back in March. The group founded by Enoch Albert, Sharon Kropp, Jeff Miller, and Liz Cutler hasn’t designed the space, received final town approval for the park’s design or raised the funds for the park.

The plan has both supporters and detractors and the agreement has been tweaked a few times after input from the town’s Parks and Recreation Committee and staff.

“Version 4 was tweaked this morning,” Sutherland said and added that he was comfortable with the document.

Councilor Joe Minutolo said that he had a couple of concerns after being called by a few people who were concerned for abutters to the property.  

“There’s a motel and apartment complex near the site. What would be done if this is deemed to be a little too noisy? I love dogs and I can see some merits to having something like this, but I do have concerns about direct abutters,” he said.

Dog at ball field. Photo: Carrie Jones

According to Councilor Matthew Hochman, he visited Camden’s dog park and it’s in the center of a residential area. He stressed that there is a lot of noise in the area already, citing Life Flights occasional landings, the YMCA’s annual half marathons, loud speaker usage for games on the ballfields, Rotary’s annual pancake breakfast and the annual Corvette show. He said that these were loud events that “nobody had problems with.” There have been complaints about the ball games from former residents of Ledgelawn Ave.

Councilor Jill Goldthwait said that she was struggling with the sequence of events, likening it to a which-comes-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg situation. She said it was similar to giving tacit consent and that the council never really voted to allow the park. She said there was a lot involved including water fountains, fencing, benches and design. She felt like it was asking people to do a lot of work prior to the council saying it was going ahead on this.

The original proposal had been to locate the dog park to a portion of the Glen Mary woods site. Neighbors objected, worrying about auditory disruptions and other changes.

“Now we’re putting it in a location where there are exactly the same objections and (just a smaller amount of people there),” she said.

Councilor Gary Friedmann said that they provide town open spaces for people who live in the village. Some of those people have pets and don’t have the space to run them the way that they should, he said.

Council Chair Valerie Peacock said the decision about whether to allow the dog park comes down to the design.

Dog parks can be small or huge, have separate play places for big and small dogs according to weight and other amenities.

Dog at ball field

Albert said the group wants to talk to a professional who has been involved in dog parks all over the East Coast, but they haven’t yet because they aren’t at the design point yet. He said invariably there’s very little barking at dog parks and that the barking is done in about a minute and then it’s over. There would be woods around it acting as a buffer at the site, he said, adding that the area they are talking about using is overrun with invasive plants and not utilized.

Miller told the council that the biggest concern people seem to have is potential noise. “It’s been said every single time we talk about it. If you go to a dog park you will see or hear or not hear for yourself how minimal the amount of noise is.”

A November 2022 New York Times article by Ginia Bellafante details a temporary dog run in Chelsea Waterside Park that met with resistance via citizens petitions prior to its opening.

via NYT

Others said this was hyperbolic. Many sources on the internet stress that barking and aggression are behavioral problems linked as much to the owners as the dogs. And that parks can help decrease social isolation for both humans and canines. Parks are also commonly thought of as community gathering places.

Kropp told councilors that part of the park rules could be asking dog owners to not allow their dogs to incessantly bark.

An article by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers states,

Town Planning Director Michele Gagnon suggested the proponents work with Code Enforcement Angela Chamberlain to talk about setbacks and other design issues as they proceed.


LINKS TO LEARN MORE

Association of Professional Dog Trainers’ article on dog parks’ pros and cons


Memorandum of Understanding


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