Should Avon still allow dogs on beach at Nottingham Park?
NO DOGS ON THE BEACH
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AVON — Other beaches may not allow dogs, but Nottingham Lake is not like other beaches.
The classic “No Dogs on the Beach” sign, common across coastlines in the United States, has never made an appearance here, as dogs have always been able to walk freely on sand alongside their owners, assuming they are on leashes.
As town staff plans the future of the Harry A. Nottingham Park area and prepares to vacate their current offices near there, that area of town — known as Tract G — could undergo some major changes. The town’s dogs on the beach policy has come up in discussions with the community regarding the future of Tract G, Mayor Jennie Fancher told attendees at a recent town council meeting.
At a meeting in April, “there was a lot of concern about dogs off leash on the beach when families are enjoying the beach,” Fancher said. “There were people who brought up dogs off leash … bounding in the water next to a toddler, and the fact that the police, sure they can come through and give people a warning, but the minute they’re gone, the dogs are back off the leash.”
Fancher, along with council member Matt Gennett and Recreation Director John Curutchet, suggested a ban on dogs would be best for the beach. The ban did not receive widespread support among the council, however, and the issue was tabled, meaning that no action will be taken at this time.
“We’ll keep our eye on it,” Fancher said.
‘MEETS THE REQUIREMENT’
Curutchet said there have been multiple challenges regarding enforcement of the existing code on the beach, which says dogs must be on a leash 10 feet long or shorter.
“The volume of dogs and the frequency of (dogs off leash) is something we’re struggling to keep up with,” Curutchet said. “We do have a code enforcement officer … that spends quite a bit of time down there with the education piece of dogs remaining on a leash.”
Local Kory Prior said he has had interactions with Avon code enforcement while spending time with his dog in the park.
“I was informed that if I want to swim with the dog, I would have to swim with a leash that I would be swimming with and the dog attached,” Prior said.
Prior said he was very bothered by his most recent interaction with Avon code enforcement because the officer ran a check on him.
“My name was called in, my background was checked to see if I had any prior arrests, any bench warrants, and thankfully there weren’t any, so I got to go home that day,” Prior said. “So that left a little bad taste in my mouth by overkill.”
Prior suggested an off-leash area be set up in Nottingham Park with longer hours designated for dog owners.
“You might have less problems, because people could feel that they could take their dogs there; it was a segregated area,” Prior said. “If we could figure out a way where there’s no cost to the taxpayer, that might be a good solution to consider.”
Nottingham Park does have an off-leash area in the northeast section of the park between the fishing pier and the sedimentation pond, which is open from 6 to 9 a.m.
“It’s kind of like having a government office open from 1 to 4 a.m.,” Prior said. “Technically, it meets the requirement.”
Curutchet said there are no plans of extending those hours.
“We limit that time because we’ve got a lot of swimming events and we’ve got a lot of human interaction with that water,” he said.
The entire council was not present for the discussion, with Scott Prince absent from the meeting. Support for a ban on dogs appeared to be split among the six council members who were present. Jake Wolf and Megan Birch were against the ban, while Fancher and Gennett expressed support. Amy Phillips said she understands all the reasons why a ban on dogs on the beach makes sense.
“If we’re going to ban dogs in the beach area … I think we need to make sure that it’s clearly signed and marked,” Phillips said.
On the procedural side of the issue, tabling the topic — which is what happened with the dog-ban idea — does not assign it to a specific agenda like continuing a motion would. It still can, however, come up before the council at any time.
Council member Sarah Smith Hymes said when she first overheard people talking about the issue at a Tract G meeting, she thought the concern was about sanitation.
“Even if the dog is on a leash, if the dog decides to relieve himself on the beach area, you have people swimming and sitting and eating sand,” Smith Hymes said with a laugh. “I think in many, many lake and beach communities around the country, most of them do have regulations about when dogs can be on a beach area in the summertime.”
Smith Hymes said she supports whatever the town can do to keep dogs from defecating on the beach.
“Even the best behaved dogs, you know they don’t raise their hand when they have to go to the bathroom,” she said.
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