AUGUSTA — The Augusta Dog Park, closed in February because some dog owners did not clean up after their pets, could reopen soon after a planned volunteer cleanup of the grounds.
Depending on the weather, that cleanup day is expected to be Saturday, and if the cleanup goes well, the park will be open by Tuesday.
“It has been missed, awfully,” said Bill Dunn, chairman of the all-volunteer Augusta Dog Park Committee. “We want to get it opened up. We’ve had a lot of people calling, wanting to know when it’s going to open up. I know my dogs missed it. It’s a very popular dog park.”
With a chance of rain in the forecast for Saturday, however, the park might be too muddy for volunteer pooper-scoopers to do their work. Volunteers and others planning to come for the cleanup are advised to check the Augusta Dog Park Committee’s Facebook page to see whether the planned cleanup still is taking place Saturday.
“It’ll open as soon as the site is ready,” said Leif Dahlin, the city’s community services director. “We really want to get in there and get it opened back up, but we have to wait for the weather to cooperate. If it’s muddy and sloppy, we’re not going in there. We’ve got to have the surface dried up.”
Dunn said if the cleaning goes well Saturday, the park could open Tuesday or sooner.
Volunteers to help clean up are wanted. However, officials ask that they not take their dogs to the cleanup, as it will be a “human only” event. Volunteers are asked to bring a rake or yard tools and gloves.
Committee members and city officials decided to close the park in mid-February because dog owners left the ground littered with pet feces.
“Due to the fact some folks refuse to pick up after their dogs and leave an unsanitary health risk mess for responsible folks to pick up, the Dog Park is closed,” signs placed at the park state.
A trash barrel is just outside the park, dispensers inside the park are filled with new bags for picking up pet waste.
“We supply free bags and the receptacles to put them in, so people have just got to learn to bend down and pick up the dog poop,” Dunn said. “And if people see someone else not picking up, let them know they need to pick up after their dogs. I know a lot of people didn’t like the fact it was closed, but we did it for a safety reason. To be honest with you, if it gets bad again, the city could close it down again.”
Worms were found in dog waste in the park before it closed, creating a potential health hazard for people and pooches.
Saturday’s cleanup will take place from 8 a.m. to noon or until volunteers are done, according to organizers.
Dog park committee members and other volunteers also will be joined by a crew from the Red Barn Cares Foundation. The fledgling organization, which is seeking nonprofit status and was started by people associated with the Red Barn restaurant in Augusta, plans to host a community day of action every year. This year, its day of action will be helping clean up the dog park, according to Alicia Barnes, the foundation’s executive director.
Dunn said local radio station 92 Moose will do a live remote broadcast at the park during the cleanup Saturday, but that’s also weather-dependent.
Work is expected to include raking the grounds, putting down some ground cover and, if needed, spraying to get rid of any traces of the worms. Dahlin hopes the winter was so cold that no worms survived. If spraying is needed, Dahlin stressed it would be done in full compliance with pesticide and other applicable regulations.
The city-owned, volunteer-maintained park opened in 2010 in the expansive Mill Park, alongside the Kennebec River.
Dahlin encouraged anyone who sees someone not picking up after a pet to ask the culprit to do so. If the person doesn’t, witnesses should call police at 626-2370 or Dahlin at 626-2305.
Dahlin said those caught not picking up after their pets could be issued “no trespass” citations banning them from the park.
He hopes most people will pick up after their pets and that attention focused on the problem will help build peer pressure to keep the park clean.
“I believe peer pressure is going to step up,” Dahlin said. “If you see someone not picking up, call them out on it, or give me a call, or police a call. Pick up after your dogs. It’s the law, it’s the right thing to do, and it’s respectful to other pet owners and pets and other users of (Mill) Park.”
Wednesday, with the sun shining, the park appeared to be drying out behind its padlocked gates. Rain could change that this weekend.
The National Weather Service in Gray’s forecast for Saturday includes a 30 percent chance of rain, but otherwise calls for a partly sunny day and a high near 55 degrees. There is also a 30 percent chance of rain Friday night.
Keith Edwards — 621-5647 firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @kedwardskj