BETHEL, Maine — A 22-month-old great Pyrenees puppy named after a musical instrument played by Bob Dylan helped lobby on Saturday for a dog park in town.
Banjo, who stands about 30 or more inches tall at the shoulder and weighs 98 pounds, sported a handwritten, purple-and-red sign that read, “I Need A Dog Park.”
His owner, Judith Diamond, brought him to the Community & Business Expo in the gym at Telstar High School to raise awareness for the park.
“He loves it here, he loves people and he’s excited,” Diamond said. “But, of course, he’d rather be running around in a dog park.”
She said the idea for trying to start a dog park in town originated with ads she placed in the Bethel Citizen more than a year ago.
“We go to dog parks,” Diamond said.
“In fact, all my money when I die is going to a dog park somewhere that needs it. That’s why originally over a year ago, I started putting ads in the Bethel Citizen and the third person to call me was Steve Wight.”
Wight, a former longtime Newry selectman, innkeeper, Nordic ski center owner and recreation advocate for the Bethel area, suggested they form a dog park committee to create a park in town.
“Something magical happens in a dog park,” Diamond said. “Many, many dogs that might be aggressive or afraid on a leash, but once they’re off the leash, it’s cool. They’re just free and real calm.”
She said they’ve already got the Bethel selectmen on board, having presented their plan at the board’s Aug. 13 meeting.
Bethel Citizen reporter Alison Aloiso wrote in an Aug. 23 story that selectmen OK’d the committee’s proposal to use an acre of land behind the Shell gas station on Route 2. The site is located on the Pathway’s town land.
Diamond said they had to get permission from Central Maine Power, which has a right of way over the land, and got it. Now the committee must get an OK from townspeople at a town meeting.
The committee must also raise $40,000, which committee member Debra Borchardt of Bethel said the park will cost unless local contractors donate time to clear the land, level the site and build a bench or gazebo.
“We’d be very happy with any kind of donations or business offers,” she said.
The plan calls for a 5-foot-high chain-link fence around the parcel, she said. It would be divided into two sections: one for smaller dogs, the other for larger dogs.
When completed, the Bethel Dog Park will be almost identical to the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society one in Lewiston, Diamond said.
Borchardt said people attending the Community & Business Expo, where the committee had a booth, liked the plan.
“Very positive,” Borchardt said of crowds. “They liked the idea of a dog park, so we’ve got a lot of supporters. It’s a real community effort.
“But right now we have to raise bucks, because we are trying to do this without it burdening the town,” she said.
“The town will be giving us the land if (voters) accept it, but we want to raise all the funds to do all the work for it to build the fence, to clear the land, and such.”
“We’re hoping to become a charitable organization and just give back to the community,” Diamond said.
Her idol is Bob Dylan and she loves his banjo music, hence her dog’s name.
“The best part of a dog park, for me, is that it wards off cabin fever,” Diamond said. ”You know, we can all play and communicate, romp and wrestle and do shenanigans and other things that dogs like to do.”