BANGOR, Maine — City councilors on Monday approved a leash ordinance for Brown Woods, Cascade Park and about half of Roland Perry City Forest, striking a balance between dog owners and users concerned about unruly canines.
It is the first such ordinance enacted in Bangor, which previously abided by state regulations that require dogs to be under an owner’s control but do not address leashes.
Councilor Geoff Gratwick said Monday’s decision was the culmination of several months of debate by the parks and recreation advisory panel and the council’s government operations committee. Both boards solicited public comment and relied on the results of an online survey conducted by the parks and recreation department.
“No one has been excluded from the process,” Gratwick said. “This is our first attempt to get it right.”
Councilor Pat Blanchette said the decision was not made lightly and agreed that it can be changed as needed in the future.
“I know it’s very touchy when you start talking about the four-legged member of your family,” she said. “This is fluid. It will always be under review.”
At a government operations committee earlier this month, some city residents expressed concerns that the proposed leash ordinance would be impossible to enforce and would take away rights of dog owners.
Jerry Jirrell, who owns two golden retrievers and frequents the city forest, asked the council Monday to consider other options before limiting his dogs’ freedom.
“I looked at the survey results. Fifty percent wanted no change at all. Thirty percent were scared of [unruly] dogs. Twenty percent didn’t have an opinion,” he said. “We need to hear from that 30 percent.”
Councilor Hal Wheeler, who along with David Nealley opposed the ordinance change, agreed that the only evidence that problems exist is anecdotal. Nealley said it seemed ironic that the city would seek to restrict public areas while trying to create a dog park.
A group of residents has been raising money and working with the city to identify possible locations for a dog park, but that process is several months from fruition.
The areas in the city forest where leashes would be required include: the parking area at Tripp Drive and the entire Tripp Drive Trail, the entire East Trail, the entire Shannon Drive Trail and part of the Main Road Trail.