HALLOWELL — Despite a cleanup event last weekend, city officials said the future of the city’s recently closed dog park is still undecided.

On Sunday, a handful of city officials spent a couple of hours cutting back brush and cleaning up bags of dog waste in the city’s dog park at Vaughn Field. Councilor Maureen Aucoin, who organized the event, said only eight people attended the Sunday cleanup event and “they were all (city) councilors, their partners and a council candidate.”

She called the response, or lack thereof, from users of the dog park “disappointing.”

“I have to commend fellow councilors (Kate) Dufour, (Michael) Frett, (Kara) Walker and (Patrick) Wynne for the effort they put in to help address an issue brought to them by constituents,” Aucoin said in a Wednesday email. “However, we need to find a more sustainable approach to dog park maintenance.”

The cleanup event was scheduled on Oct. 7 at the regular City Council meeting as the first step toward reopening the park. In addition to the meeting, Aucoin created a Facebook event for the cleanup. She said she also reached out to people directly who expressed interest in helping with the cleanup.

The dog park was closed after City Council action on Sept. 9, because the buildup of dog waste presented a health hazard, according to Public Works Director Chris Buck. Residents sounded off about the dog park’s importance later in September at a public meeting hosted by Dufour. At that forum, residents expressed interest in reopening it in a timely fashion and placing a small trash can there.


The dog park’s condition was brought up in a July discussion about trash cans in city parks. Public works previously provided trash cans at Granite City Park and Vaughn Field but removed them in July 2018 because they were misused. In July, Buck said that trash cans would overflow over the weekend, when none of the Public Works employees were on duty, and create an eyesore. Further, the trash can near the dog park at Vaughn Field could be a health hazard because it has been covered in dog waste.

Buck said the Public Works Department will be working in the park either Friday or early next week. He said the department may decide to replace the top layer of soil, a layer of pea stone and a layer of fabric designed to help filter liquids through it. He said the department will be able to address those replacements within the current budget.

Aucoin said the park may reopen temporarily while the council determines whether the park should be closed permanently, or if the city should rely on the public or Public Works Department to maintain the park. She did not know when it would reopen.

At the September forum, Frett said the Friends of Vaughn Field, which oversaw the creation of the Vaughn Field park, conceptualized a volunteer group to maintain the dog park, but never followed through. He said organizing the volunteer group fell out of the Friends’ focus because there were no problems with the park’s maintenance until now.

Residents have expressed confusion with the city’s role at the park. At the forum, a resident said the signs at the park route questions to City Hall, giving the illusion that the city is responsible for the park. Residents also floated starting a dog park maintenance fund that would receive money from donations by dog owners when they come to City Hall to license their dog.

When asked if taking care of the parks were worked into the Public Works Department’s contract, Buck said the department does a number of jobs for the city, including fixing doors at the City Hall. He likened their department’s workload to that of a handyman’s.

City Manager Nate Rudy, who was given authority by the City Council to reopen the dog park with the Public Works Department’s OK earlier this month, was not available for comment on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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