BELFAST, Maine — With the opening of the Belfast Dog Park, a dog’s life has gotten a lot better.
Constrained by leash laws whenever they venture out-doors, pets can kick free their shackles at the dog park and scamper and bound across the grassy 1½-acre fenced-in dog playground. For that reason, it’s no surprise the park has been an overnight sensation since the moment it opened two weeks ago.
“We have been getting a pretty steady stream of dogs from all over,” Chris Urick said Wednesday as she watered the park’s newly planted trees. “The whole purpose and idea was to have a recreation area for dogs so they can play and exercise. The dogs are loving it and people are loving it. It’s a great place for dogs to socialize and their owners to socialize.”
Urick is vice president of Friends of Belfast Parks, the nonprofit volunteer group dedicated to the preservation, improvement and use of the city’s parks and green spaces. She said a subcommittee of the Friends created the dog park as a gift to the city, its dog owners and their dogs.
The dog park is located off Lincolnville Avenue and is adjacent to Walsh Field, the Little League and softball diamonds donated to the city by Bank of America two years ago. The City Council approved the location for a dog park last September and Friends of Belfast Parks raised $44,000 from private sources to build the park. Most of the money was used to purchase and install the chain-link fence that surrounds the park.
The park, which is open from dawn to dusk, has separate fenced areas for large and small dogs. It is the only dog park north of Portland and is one of 700 off-leash recreation areas in the country. There are shaded areas and benches for dog owners. A bright red fire hydrant stands in the middle of the park, a gift from the Belfast Water District.
“We just felt there was a recreational need in the community and our goal was to make this a top-notch facility,” Urick said. “People driving through from out of state have seen it from Route 1 and came over. People from Bangor and other places in Maine have come down and let their dogs loose. We’ve had a lot of activity. I had a report of 17 dogs here at one time.”
Belfast dog owner Don Bonney was at the park Wednesday morning with his basset hound Jackson. Bonney said the first time 5-year-old Jackson was off his leash outside was when he took him to the park shortly after it opened. He said Jackson usually spends about an hour at the park, sometimes running around and sometimes hanging out with other dogs.
“He seems to love it because it’s awfully hard to get him away from it,” Bonney said. “I haven’t found one dog here yet that hasn’t been friendly. Jack-son has met more than a dozen dogs in the last two weeks and he hasn’t had a problem with any of them.”
The rules of the park are simple. Dog owners are required to keep their dogs on the leash until they get inside the fenced area and to keep their leash handy while the dog is free to roam. All dogs must be properly inoculated and wear a collar with ID and rabies tags. No aggressive dogs, female dogs in heat or puppies under 4 months old are allowed. Owners must pick up after their dogs and fill in any holes their dogs might dig.
Bonney said he witnessed one incident in which two male dogs confronted each another, but it was quelled immediately by the owners. He said the park was a great addition to the city and a boon to dog owners.
“It’s great because you can let them run and get acclimated with other dogs and people,” he said. “It’s a pretty simple thing to do because the other people who bring their dogs here are all dog people.”
For information about the dog park go to http://friendsofbelfastparks.org.