A heated debate last summer about banning dogs from public beaches in Saco prompted one woman to make a push to establish a dog park in the city.

Carol Radin and her husband, Skip, donated $5,000 to the city this month, nearly half the money needed to create a dog area in Pepperell Park, near downtown Saco.

The city is securing the permits it needs to build the park in 2013, said City Administrator Rick Michaud.

City officials say they need about $12,000 to create a fenced-in dog park, and they have already collected $5,700, from eight donors. The park would be about 125 feet by 125 feet, with a separate fenced-in area for small dogs.

Radin, who owns a 13-month-old St. Bernard puppy named Martigny, said she had long thought about asking the city to make a dog park, and got the push she needed when the City Council held hearings last summer on a plan to ban dogs from beaches in Saco.

The plan, which came from some members of the Baywood Condominium Owner’s Association, was rejected by city councilors after hours of public comment from residents who passionately opposed the idea.

“We’re the only town in the area without a dog park,” Radin said. “We thought it would be nice to have one.”

The City Council unanimously accepted the Radins’ donation on Dec. 17 and expressed support for the project, said Mayor Mark Johnston.

He said he has not heard of any opposition to the dog park, which still needs approval from the Planning Board. The park also is subject to a historic preservation review because of its location in the city’s historic district.

“I think it’s a longtime need that hasn’t been addressed,” Johnston said.

The hearings last summer about dogs on the beach made clear that Saco residents support dogs and “pegged us as a pet-friendly community,” Michaud said.

“(The dog park) is another example of Saco being a dog-friendly community,” he said.

The park, which would be run by Saco’s parks and recreation department, would have a surface of decomposed granite — a coarse stone dust. It would be surrounded by a 5-foot-tall fence, with landscaping to reduce runoff and screen the dog park from users of Pepperell Park.

The dog park would have water sources and signs that outline rules and hours.

Some work to build the park may be done by city employees, but contracted labor and supplies would go through the city’s competitive bidding process, Michaud said.

He expects the permitting process to take several months, after which city officials will present the council with more concrete design plans and make arrangements to buy supplies.

Radin is excited about the prospect of a dog park, because it can provide a place for dogs to run and socialize, and be an added draw for the community.

As a real estate agent, she said, she is often asked if the city has a dog park.

“It’s one of the things people look for when they move to a town. We have the ocean, the river and good schools, but we don’t have a dog park,” she said.

The city continues to accept donations for the dog park through its finance department.

 

Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

ggraham@pressherald.com

Twitter: grahamgillian