This year, Barks in the Park won’t just celebrate dogs — it’s going to mark the opening of Gardiner’s new dog park.

The 10th annual edition of the event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Waterfront Park. The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the dog park will take place at 2:30 p.m. on Water Street.

The dog park project has been a decade in the making, said Jessica Clark, chairperson of the Gardiner Dog Park Committee. During the city’s Heart and Soul project process, Gardiner residents made it known they wanted the municipality to become more dog friendly and create a park for canines to enjoy.

“We have kept working on it,” said Clark, who had been a member of the Gardiner Main Street Board of Directors during the Heart and Soul project.

She has seen the project come completely to fruition.

“This is a community park,” she said. “It would not have happened without the support of the community.”

The new dog park will be located at 563 Water St., beside Cobbosseecontee Stream, with parking just off the main road. The park is surrounded by about 1,000 feet of fencing, Clark said.

Jessica Clark, chairperson of the Barks in the Park committee, at the new dog park Thursday in Gardiner. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

The property was already owned by the City of Gardiner, and no local tax money funded the new park. Instead, proceeds from Barks in the Park and private donations have paid for the park project, Clark said, at a cost of about $30,000.

Barks in the Park will continue to fund the maintenance of the park, said Clark, who has a cairn terrier, Denny. 

She said about 1,000 hours of volunteer time has gone into the dog park’s creation. The city park will be managed by the Gardiner Dog Park Committee, which is under the Gardiner Recreation Department. 

“For any community, a lot of people have animals, and having a place to go with their dogs is definitely beneficial,” said Tracey Steuber, Gardiner’s new director of development and planning.

She said for those who do not have a dog park in their community that the dog park in Gardiner could be an attraction and therefore a benefit to the city.

Barks in the Park will include games and contests, demonstrations, pet products and services, and crafts and raffles. It will also be an opportunity for participants to learn about local rescue organizations.

Noted events include a dog wash at 10:15 a.m., an agility demonstration at 10:45 a.m., Therapy Dogs 101 at 11:15 a.m., Yoga with Your Dog on the Boardwalk at noon, and a flyball demonstration and chance to try at 12:15 p.m.

The contests will start at 11:30 a.m., and include awards for best costume, best trick, look-alike and best dog kiss. 

The rain date will be Sunday. If the event is postponed, it will be announced on the Gardiner Dog Park Facebook page

The event is free, but some activities will require donations to participate. 

Dogs attending must be on leash and must have an up to date license and vaccinations, Clark said. 

While the city was the location of a notable dog attack in 2018 — when two off-leash dogs attacked a woman in the Arcade parking lot, prompting proposed state legislation to make it a felony to leave the scene of a dog attack — it was not related to the push for a dog park. Gardiner requires dogs to be on leashes.

“In the history of the event, we have not had any issues,” said Clark.

She said around 200 dogs usually participate in the event.

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