BETHEL — The Bethel Dog Park Committee has returned to the drawing board after its proposal for a dog park at Davis Park was shot down at Wednesday’s annual town meeting.

Newry resident Steve Wight, co-chairman of the Bethel Dog Park Committee, said that despite the proposal being defeated, they would continue to look for new locations to build a dog park.

“We still have a permit from the Planning Board,” Wight said Monday morning. “Of course, the permit is for the original location, but we have our plans. We just need a new location.”

The push for a dog park began last summer, after selectmen authorized Town Manager Jim Doar to appoint Wight to represent a dog park planning committee and present a plan to the Planning Board.

However, the committee’s plans hit a snag after a petition was submitted by Bethel residents asking for the construction of a basketball court at Davis Park — the same site that Wight was pursuing for a Bethel dog park.

During Wednesday night’s annual town meeting, townspeople voted to reject the Dog Park Committee’s proposal and approve the basketball court.

Wight said that he is happy the town has a basketball court, but thinks Davis Park is a poor location for it.

“I don’t think that Davis Park is a good place for a basketball court,” Wight said. “It’s not like I’m against a basketball court in town. I want the town to have a basketball court, a dog park, a ball field and anything else it wants, but there are plenty of places in town that could work better for a project like that.”

Wight later said that he hopes the basketball court proponents will go through the Planning Board, since that is what the Dog Park Committee had to do.

“With our project, we approached the selectmen and said we were interested in building a dog park on town land,” Wight explained. “They told us to go look around and come back to them if we found something. They said Davis Park was a good location and told us to go through the Planning Board, which we did. However, the basketball court proponents have yet to receive a permit, or meet with them at all. I know they can’t use the permit for our project, since they’ll have to build an impermeable surface in their project, which isn’t included in our permit.”

The Dog Park Committee’s next step will be to track down a new location for their dog park proposal, preferably on town land instead of private land, Wight said.

“A lot of people tell us, ‘You should just build the dog park on private land,’” Wight said. “We’re trying to avoid that, because when you build on private land the land owner has to have insurance and be liable for the building. We would rather build on town land.”

Another complaint that residents have had about the dog park, Wight said, is that it would eventually cost the town money, which he denies.

“That’s one of the big ruses I’ve heard over the past year,” Wight said. “I’ve told people that our dog park would be funded by donations and wouldn’t cost the town money, but people are paranoid about taxes. People worry about the dog park, and I have to remind them that neither the dog park or the basketball court would cost the town money.”

Wight said that he needs to check with the town manager to see if the ad hoc Recreation Facilities Committee, created by the town during a May 6 selectmen meeting, was still intact.

At Wednesday’s town meeting, townspeople voted to reject Article 4 on the warrant, which would have authorized the Board of Selectmen to accept cash donations from municipalities, private individuals, businesses and foundations to help implement the recommendations of the Recreation Facilities Committee.

“The selectmen actually recommended that the town vote yes on Article 4, so the committee could try and figure out a way to possibly get a dog park and a basketball court in the town,” Wight said. “However, since the town shot it down, I’m not sure if the committee was disbanded or not.”

In a phone conversation Monday morning, Doar said that the Recreation Facilities Committee would continue to meet and discuss plans for the town, despite Article 4 being defeated.

“The town warrant article only asked voters if they wished to authorize the Board of Selectmen to accept donations to implement the ad hoc committee’s plans,” Doar said. “Even though the article is defeated, they’ll continue to meet. The article would have just saved us an extra step.”

Wight said he hopes the town can continue to work together and find a way to have both a dog park and a basketball court.

“I think there’s enough space around town for various recreational venues,” Wight said. “We’ve just got to get back to the drawing board and figure out where we go next.”

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