Pet guidelines for Bangor trails, open space weighed

Posted Dec. 01, 2008, at 8:51 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A recent spate of concerns and complaints involving pets on city trails and open spaces may cause city officials to consider adopting animal guidelines.

The idea was broached Monday at a meeting of Bangor’s parks and recreation advisory board and likely will be discussed at future meetings before any decision is made.

“We’re at a point where we need to discuss alternatives for how we handle pets on city trails,” parks and recreation Director Tracy Willette said.

In recent weeks and months, city residents have reported encounters with pets on trails within the City Forest and other open areas designated for public use. Willette said the city hasn’t seen a huge amount of complaints but enough to prompt a discussion.

“We should be able to come up with a happy medium, but we have to be cognizant of the fact that some people may not feel entirely comfortable around animals in that setting,” he said.

Councilor Geoffrey Gratwick, who attended Monday’s meeting, agreed that the city can and should do more to accommodate both pet owners and others who use the trails.

“I love the idea of letting dogs run, but people have to feel safe,” he said.

City officials have discussed leash laws many times over the years for a variety of different reasons but never have enacted any ordinances. There is no specific state law requiring leashes, only that pet owners maintain “reasonable control” over their pets. A couple of years ago, a woman approached the city about creating a dog park, but that idea never materialized.

One option to alleviate the recent concerns, Willette said, could be to divide areas such as the City Forest into sections, allowing pet owners to let their dogs off leashes in some areas but not others.

Jessica Pyzynski, a member of the advisory board, liked that idea but said boundaries would need to be clear because many trails overlap. Any boundaries, Willette added, would have to be consistent throughout the city, including Essex Woods, Brown Woods and other open areas.

Pyzynski also wondered whether the city should offer more free bags for animal waste.

“You can never have too many,” Willette said, adding that an increase in the number of people riding horses on city trails has compounded that problem. “That will likely be a separate issue for us to address.”

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