Dog park debate goes to Bethel Planning Board
The Bethel Planning Board last week heard from snowmobilers concerned about a proposed new dog park in a “major intersection” of their trails.
But they also heard from supporters who say the park could be a benefit to dogs, people and the local economy.
Steve Wight of Newry, who was authorized by Town Manager Jim Doar as the agent to present the plan on behalf of the committee that has been working on the project, described details to the planners.
The one-acre, fenced in area next to the Pathway would be located on land that became town property as part of the Bethel Station project, he said. As a result the application is an amendment to that site plan.
The park, behind Dunkin Donuts, would be accessed about 75 feet down the Pathway from Route 2.
Containers would be placed in the park for disposal of dog waste, and they would be emptied by the committee, Wight said. The ground would be covered with wood chips.
Any liability for dog bites, etc. “”is a civil situation between the owners,” said Wight. “There is no more liability than if you walked your dog on the Pathway.”
To use the park in winter, an existing snowmobile trail would have to be rerouted around the park.
The facility would be a town project, but would be privately funded, similar to the skatepark at the other end of the Pathway, said Wight.
After Wight’s presentation, planners heard from the public.
David Crockett, president of the Bethel Snow Twisters snowmobile club, said anyone who has been in the area of the site “would realize how many sleds go through there on a Saturday or Sunday. It’s a huge intersection,” he said.
Snowmobilers go through the area to access the bridge across the Androscoggin River, as well as trails in West Bethel.
He also questioned whether there would be no increased insurance costs to the town.
“I’m on the Budget Committee, and it seems like liability every year takes a big jump. In theory you maysay it doesn’t cost more, but when you add up all of these liabilities, somebody is going to be paying for the extra insurance. The taxpayers keep swallowing more and more liability on this.”
He cited the Pathway and the skatepark as other examples of such projects.
Rick Young of Greenstock Snow Sports, which maintains the snowmobile trail, said he was concerned about the effect of running grooming machines along a rerouted trail that would pass over the Bethel sewer pipe for about 80 feet. He said the groomers might force the frostline deeper into the ground and possibly freeze the pipe.
On the other side of the issue, several dog owners spoke in favor of the socialization value – for both dogs and people – of having a park.
And committee member Nancy Brown said having the park could help in drawing tourists to the area. She said it would add to the dog-friendly atmosphere promoted by area hotels and other businesses.
The board needs more information from the committee before the application will be complete. They decided to schedule a site walk of the area for Jan. 7 at 3 p.m., and will take the park up again at the next board meeting, on Jan. 9.