While surrounding communities have set up dog parks over the past couple years, more and more Auburn residents have asked if one might happen in town. The answer is yes, and it may be a reality sooner than later.
A public hearing is scheduled for this coming Monday, September 26, at 7:05pm at Auburn Town Hall. Residents will have the opportunity to to provide feedback and ask questions. Residents can also comment in writing at the Town Manager’s office at 102 Central St. by 12:00pm on Sept. 26.
Leading up to this point, a group of interested residents have been working with Town officials to identify a site, design, and develop a plan for the potential dog park.
Nancy Sarkisian of Auburn has become the chairperson of a fledgling “friends of” group tentatively named “Friends of Auburn Dog Park”, which has been working with the Town on some of the many details related to the project.
Said Sarkisian, “I winter in Florida, and a dog park there got me wondering if Auburn would consider something like it. I contacted [Animal Control Officer] Aimee Contois, and she told me the Town was already working on it.”
There is grant money currently available to help communities design and build dog parks. The Stanton Foundation is offering up to $250,000 to fund 100% of the design and up to 90% of the construction costs. The remaining 10% of the construction costs must be picked up by the applicant, in this case, the Town of Auburn.
“If the Board of Selectmen approve the project, we will apply for 501c3 status and begin fundraising” said Sarkisian. “A lawyer in town has offered to help with that process at a very reduced rate, but it is still expensive and time consuming. So we’re going to wait until we have approval” she added.
After researching 11 locations, the town has determined that the space behind the parking area at Pakachoag Golf Course on Upland Street would be the best location of those examined. In addition to looking at the space available, accessibility, parking and abutters at each location, the town also considered the costs to build out the space. For example, the Tot Lot on Boyce St. was under consideration, but there were concerns that the retaining wall and several other conditions would require extensive remediation and additional costs.
According to Sarkisian, while town officials decided on the proposed location, the Friends of Auburn Dog Park are committed to making the most of whatever location is chosen.
“Oxford is in the process of the same thing” said Sarkisian. “We met with them, to see how they are proceeding.”
Sarkisian, Lynn Vincent, Ivy Lapworth, and Nicole Vecchio are officers of the new friends group. There are about 15 others who are actively helping. The group will work with Town officials to raise money for construction and maintenance, design the park, and develop an operational plan.
“The park will probably be by membership” said Sarkisian. “We’ve talked about opening it to more than just Auburn residents, but outsiders would pay a bit more.”
There are a number of policies that will need to be addressed, such as ensuring the furry visitors have all the appropriate vaccinations, enforcing memberships, etc. There are several required features that the dog park must have. The space must include a minimum of 30,000 square feet fenced in, stations with clean-up bags, drinking water for dogs and humans, a double-gated entry area, and divided areas for larger and smaller dogs. Sarkisian added that they hope to add a third fenced in section for socialization. They would also like to have security cameras.
“Trained and socialized dogs are good dogs” said Sarkisian.
Beyond that, Sarkisian said the group hopes the park becomes more than just a place to bring dogs.
“We want to see this become a community spot” said Sarkisian. “We are considering dog training, puppy socialization classes, agility equipment, and maybe other kinds of demonstrations. We’d want this to be a place even non-dog owners could come for special events” she added.
The next hurdle, though, comes Monday night at Town Hall. “We’d ask anyone interested in seeing this project happen to come to Town Hall and show your support on September 26.”