BANGOR, Maine — The City Council’s government operations committee on Tuesday preliminarily approved a new leash ordinance for some city trails and parks and also authorized staff to continue working with an active citizens’ group to develop a dog park.
Both recommendations were brought to the committee by Bangor Parks and Recreation Director Tracy Willette, whose staff and advisory board have worked for months to address pet issues on city land.
Willette said the leash ordinance as proposed, which still needs to be voted on by the full City Council, would apply to some areas in the City Forest, as well as Brown Woods and Cascade Park.
“If these changes are adopted, it will require a significant education process,” he said. “For some, it’s going to be a change of culture.”
Councilor Pat Blanchette agreed that communicating with the public would be essential and Councilor Geoff Gratwick said the city would do well to consider creating additional signage.
Historically, the Parks and Recreation Department has received complaints about unruly pets roaming open spaces in Bangor, which has never had any leash laws. The complaints have increased in recent months, prompting Willette and others to take a closer look at policies. The Parks and Recreation Department even conducted a use survey to help identify needed changes.
“A leash policy was the biggest concern,” he said.
Willette said it was important to designate some areas where leashes would be required but leave other areas alone. The ordinance could always be amended in the future.
Another recurring theme that was discovered during the discussion was the need to create or designate a dog park in Bangor. Since last fall, a residents’ group known as Bangor Area Regional K-9s, or BARK, has come forward to do the heavy lifting on making a dog park a reality.
Councilors authorized Willette on Tuesday to continue working with the residents’ group to identify potential locations for a park and to help with design. BARK has agreed to begin a fundraising effort to pay for the park and is not seeking any financial contribution from the city other than land donation, according to BARK founder Joe Knox.
Plans for a dog park still are likely several months from completion, Willette said, but it depends on how quickly money is raised and how quickly a suitable site is found.
The leash ordinance changes will be discussed once more at the government operations committee level before going to the full City Council so the public has additional opportunity to weigh in.
Anyone seeking more information about the proposed ordinance can contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 992-4490.