DOG PARK WOULD BRING JOY TO MANY
Jane Ryerson’s letter in the March 28 edition of The Citizen reminded me that even though the Dog Park Committee has been working for many months on the plan to build a dog park on town land behind Dunkin Donuts and that during that time there have been meetings and hearings before the selectmen and the planning board that have been well reported in The Citizen and other papers, many of the voters of Bethel, who will ultimately determine whether the park is to be built, have never seen or even heard of a dog park until recently.
Dog parks, while newer than ball parks, skate parks, and picnic areas, are being built all around the country and in many towns in the State of Maine. The idea is to provide a safe place for dogs and their owners to get together to play and socialize. The same state law that provides that animals or humans harmed by another dog can seek recovery of damages only from the owner or handler of that dog holds the town harmless from any liability whether the harm occurs on a sidewalk, in a private yard, or in a dog park. As to the often discussed concern over dog waste, no owner wants to bring his dog into an enclosed area filled with that substance. Though it is hard for many to believe the idea, dog owners are much more likely to pick up after their dogs in a park where fellow owners will apply peer pressure than on a sidewalk where no one may be watching at the moment. Besides, it is easier to do in a park where disposal bags and refuse containers are handy.
Not everyone who owns a dog will use a dog park, just as not everyone uses a skate park, or a ball field, or a swimming pool, or a snowmobile bridge. However, those who do use any of these are very grateful to the community that provides them. In return, the community expects the users of such recreational infrastructure to play responsibly and be respectful of others. If that isn’t the case, the user is asked not to return. That’s the way society works.
Each time a new proposal is made it takes time for people to get used to the idea. We see evidence of that every day in the news. I hope that Bethel voters will think about those for whom a dog park will bring joy. Then I hope everyone will vote to accept the gift of this facility to the Town of Bethel from those who see it as a great addition to the town.