Last November, at a special town meeting (STM), West Tisbury voters very narrowly voted to ban dogs from Lambert’s Cove Beach between June 15 and September 15. Up till then dogs had been allowed on the beach before 10 a.m. and after 5 p.m. No provision was made for enforcing this expanded ban, beyond the implicit expectation that the animal control officer (ACO) or one of West Tisbury’s finest would drop everything and rush to the beach to bust the perp if a violation were reported.
Yeah, right. Like the ACO and the police have nothing better to do, and like Lambert’s Cove Beach isn’t a considerable distance from the nearest road, and like the miscreant(s) wouldn’t be long gone by the time the authorities got there.
Dogs on the beach came up again at the annual town meeting (ATM) in April. Over the winter an ad hoc group, Friends of Lambert’s Cove Beach, had been working to come up with a plan that would facilitate peaceful coexistence between canine and human beachgoers during off-peak summer hours. See “Dogs on the Beach” for my take on the issues involved. Town meeting voted to allow dogs on the beach between 7 and 10 a.m.
There’s another STM in my town tomorrow night. Guess what seven of the ten articles on the warrant are about? You got it: dogs. But it’s no longer just about Lambert’s Cove Beach. Article 2 stipulates, among other things, that “No dog shall be allowed to deposit feces not removed by the dog’s owner or keeper upon any property other than that of the dog’s owner or keeper.”
Eh wot? Does this mean that if Travvy poops 15 or 20 feet off the side of a road, trail, or bike path, which is where he usually poops while on his Flexi lead, I’m supposed to bushwhack through the brambles, scrub, and poison ivy to pick it up? Ain’t gonna happen. And when I let that poop lie where my dog “deposited” it, will an ACO, police officer, or member of the town’s parks and recreation committee appear from behind a tree to fine me $50 (first offense), $100 (second offense), or $250 (third and subsequent offenses)? I doubt that too. There’s no way a handful of people can monitor every square foot of off-road scrub in West Tisbury.
And the point of making rules and imposing fines that can’t be enforced is — what?
Articles 5 and 6 on the STM warrant seek a total of $6,513.21 to pay an assistant ACO to supervise dogs on the beach for the remainder of this fiscal year and the next one. Articles 7 and 8 seek a total of $9,162.94 for additional parking lot attendants for the same period. Some have raised the question of whether the current parking lot attendants are so overworked that their hours can’t be rearranged to cover the morning dogs-on-the-beach hours. What intrigues me is that last fall the Parks and Recreation Committee pushed for a total ban on dogs on the beach from June 15 to September with absolutely no mention of how it was going to be enforced and what enforcement might cost.
I also note that Article 4 asks the town to approve the transfer of $7,000 that wasn’t used in the construction of the new basketball court to fund Parks & Rec’s proposed new basketball program. I suggest that if Parks & Rec really thinks additional parking lot attendants are necessary, it might forgo this new basketball program for another year and spend the money on parking lot attendants.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the Parks and Recreation Committee acknowledged that for many town residents “recreation” includes dogs?