BAR HARBOR — A plan to distribute free plastic bags for dog waste in town parks and to erect signs encouraging owners to pick up after their pets was approved by councilors 5-2 Tuesday.
Pairs of “Dog Waste Removal Bag Stations” are planned for the town athletic fields, Grant Park and Agamont Park. The Village Green and Hadley Point each will get one.
The proposal came from a HUB of Bar Harbor group via the Parks and Recreation Committee, which voted unanimously at their April meeting to recommend the idea to the Town Council.
Dog waste in parks and streets was a top concern at a public “charette” visioning session the HUB hosted last year, Heather Sorokin told councilors.
Under a town “poop scoop” ordinance in effect since 1997, failure to pick up dog waste carries a $25 fine. No citations have ever been issued.
The stations would be sponsored by businesses for a one-time contribution of $380 to cover purchase of the equipment, installation and the first set of bags. The stations include a permanent name plate identifying the sponsor and information about local regulations.
More than enough businesses have expressed interest, Jane Holland of the HUB said. Purchasing replacement bags, $70 for 2,000 bags, would be absorbed by the Public Works budget.
Council Chair Paul Paradis said he would prefer to see an annual sponsorship arrangement like the signs on the town athletic fields supporting Little League activities.
Public Works Director Chip Reeves opposed the proposal and sent a memo explaining his position because he was unable to attend the council meeting.
“Although this may seem like a small commitment, the public service plate is already overflowing at the Highway Division,” Reeves wrote. “During the season, we already provide pet feces clean-up in our parks and playgrounds. Still, public service requests continue to be added. … We have rules in place that aren’t enforced, and the answer is to add more service needs to Public Works?”
Much of the debate at the meeting centered on challenges specific to the beach at Hadley Point, where there is no public trash receptacle.
Councilor Peter St. Germain said Hadley Point has worked well as a “carry in/carry out” facility. “There used to be a dumpster down there, and it became a huge problem,” he said.
Bagged dog waste is sometimes thrown in the portable toilet at Hadley Point, Reeves said, and has caused problems for the company pumping it out.
“The Chamber of Commerce advertises Hadley Point as a dog-friendly place,” resident Diane Vreeland said. “When I’m there, I talk to visitors with dogs all the time.” They usually do pick up after their dogs, she said, but no receptacle is available for the bags and they don’t want to put the bags in their hot cars with children and luggage. “Please vote to put something down there to save that beach and save that environment.”
“I applaud the downtown businesses for doing something about the problem, and I think this is worth trying in all seven locations,” Councilor Gary Friedmann said. He added that the HUB, Public Works and Reeves can make adjustments to the program if necessary.
Friedmann, Clark Stivers, David Bowden, Anne Greenlee and Burt Barker voted in favor of the proposal. Paradis and St. Germain dissented.