This is a note of pure love to the city of Bath for its fantastic dog park.

Technically, the South End Park is “a multi-purpose park that also allows dogs off-leash but in voice command,” so even if you don’t have a dog, this park welcomes you and has amenities to offer. For those of us with a canine companion (or two) in tow, however, it is heaven.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

In praising one, I don’t mean to throw shade on the others. Maine has several fantastic off-leash places to bring a pup for socialization. The website bringfido.com has a handy list of parks I intend to visit, but Bath has nailed it in a low-key, no-bells-or-whistles sort of way.

Once completely open, the park now has a boundary neatly fenced with chain link, making it safe to let dogs run free. However, it remains open to the water along the far edge so adventurous canines can wander down for a swim or a roll in the river.

The park is wide-open grassland, neatly mown, bordered by ornamental trees still establishing themselves. A circular walkway for humans is well maintained and partly paved – meaning even in springtime you can take a couple of loops around without misery. An abundance of poop bags and trash cans means humans can pick up after their pups conscientiously while still strolling hands-free.

The entry and exit points, which are numerous to avoid traffic jams, are double-gated to eliminate escapees, and the section between gates is paved to avoid the high-traffic mud puddle effect all too common at parks.

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This is such a simple thing, and it adds so much value to the community.

I’m sure in reality it isn’t as simple as it seems to me. After all, chain link fencing doesn’t come free nor does it install itself. In proportion to the overall city budget and planning process, however, it seems like a pretty good bang for the buck.

According to the National Association of Realtors, “… dog parks as a community amenity are an emerging trend, one that can increase property value, lower market times when selling a property and be a deciding factor in a home purchase decision.”

The NAR also cites research from another organization on its website stating that having a dog park “discourages delinquent and criminal activity, encourages people to exercise and stimulate social interaction with other people, accommodates senior citizens and the disabled, who cannot always walk their dogs on leash, (and) builds a community of people committed to parks, community involvement and the environment.”

This rings true for me. I’ve never been to the park without striking up a friendly conversation with a stranger, and I often see groups of friends meeting up, laughing and chatting as the tennis balls fly – to the delight of the dogs dashing all around.

Community gathering spaces have always been near to my heart. Now? Open-air – i.e., relatively safe pandemic-wise gathering places – are worth their weight in gold.

If perchance, some enterprising food truck vendors or a coffee trolley were to set up shop there as well, I think my bliss would be complete. Imagine sitting on a pier, watching your dogs while having a coffee and a cookie! Then again it might snarl the parking, so maybe not. You decide.

In any event, thank you, Bath, for creating the South End Park. We’ll be back again soon. May other communities take note and emulate.

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