CARIBOU, Maine — City officials say Caribou’s new dog park is being used even more than they anticipated.
The park officially opened on Sept. 6, and since then Caribou Parks and Recreation Superintendent Gary Marquis said it is being used far more than he had ever anticipated.
Nearly every aspect of the dog park’s creation is unique to Caribou, from the circumstances surrounding the initial planning to its actual construction.
The park is one of many components of Caribou’s new PreK-8 school construction project. When engineers surveyed the city of Caribou to determine the best possible location for a new school, they found that the land on Bennett Drive where Teague Park once stood was ideal based on several metrics.
In order to build a school on park land, however, city officials had to jump through a myriad of hoops, as that land was federally protected since the city had used National Park Service grant money to upgrade its facilities throughout the years.
Marquis said that the National Park Service had essentially required that the property could only be utilized as a public space.
“So the school project comes in and the architects were asking about utilizing this piece of property,” he said. “The National Park Service was approached and while they typically don’t do land conversions, they allowed this because the school project is something beneficial to the public.”
The stipulations were that the city needed to offer up another piece of property to relocate the park.
“The size of the property didn’t matter,” Marquis said, “the value is what the National Park Service was concerned about.”
The final agreement resulted in Teague Park being relocated across the street, where the former Caribou Learning Center building stood, and the remainder of the property becoming a dog park where the former Sincock Administrative building stood on Main Street.
As a result, the city not only receives two new parks but also eliminates a vacant building.
Local contractor Soderberg Construction has leveled and buried the former Sincock building and filled in the empty area with grass. From there, Marquis said it was the Caribou Rec Department’s responsibility to create the fences and materials for the park itself.
He said that if the department had hired out contractors to put in the fence, it would have cost about $15,000. But with a little ingenuity, Marquis and Parks and Maintenance Director Roland Thibodeau took on the entire project themselves, saving the city more than $10,000.
“We sat down and started designing what I thought would work,” Marquis said. “We looked at other dog parks and saw that they typically have two entrances for large and small dogs. I’m no architect by any stretch of the imagination, but I designed it all on paper and started looking at how much material we would need.”
The department saved a significant amount of money on fencing, as Marquis said he recently removed fencing in a few locations throughout the city, but did not throw anything away afterward. Because of this, the department was able to recycle the material and save thousands of dollars.
“We did all the work ourselves with the donation of an air compressor and post pounder from Straightline Fencing,” Marquis said. “Roland and I started installing pipe and a couple weeks later we now have the finished product.”
The result is a facility created entirely by the city’s parks and rec department.
“A little bit of County ingenuity, hard work, and sweat equity goes a long way,” Marquis said. “We had some other projects going on at the same time that sometimes took precedence, but I think we’ve got ourselves a pretty good park that is going to be used for years to come.”
Since it first opened, Marquis said the park has seen an incredible amount of use.
“I’ve seen dogs there every night and afternoon,” he said. “So far, there have been no complaints to my knowledge of a dog attacking another dog or anything like that.”
The park, according to Marquis, is to be used at each visitor’s own risk. In other words, everyone is responsible for the actions of their dogs.
“People who take their dogs to the dog park are generally responsible dog owners,” he said, adding that no dog waste has been left on the ground and that it has all been properly disposed of in the two nearby garbage cans.
In less than a week, Marquis said the park had seen so much use that they had to change out both garbage bags.
Looking ahead, Marquis said the 29,000-square-foot park will eventually contain more activities for big and small dogs, and that they also plan on creating a handicap accessible area in the near future.
“It’s been a good thing for the city,” he said. “People are really enjoying it.”