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.

Friends of Lambert’s Cove Beach flyer

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?

What Parks & Rec really needs is a weed whacker to get their tennis courts in shape for summer.

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?

The new basketball court was a great place to do early-morning dog training — until Parks & Rec threw the NO DOGS sign up late last fall.

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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1 Response to Dogged

  1. VA Birdwoman says:

    An insidiously creeping police state on Martha’s Vineyard?
    When I was in Boston a couple of weeks ago (my first visit since I lived there 38 years ago), I was amazed at the lack of jaywalkers. Time and again I would come to a busy street intersection where clots of people stood on the corners, waiting for the white Walk signal to flash. Even when there were lengthy breaks in the traffic through which a reasonably agile pedestrian could cross the street, people just stood there. And glared at me as I sprinted across. (One of my mottoes is “The future of the world is in the hands of women who jaywalk.”) This led me to wonder how this sheep mentality developed in Boston–is there now a significant fine if one gets ticketed for jaywalking? If I were jaywalking and a law enforcement type grimly approached me, couldn’t I just sprint away from him or her? Would they actually chase me? Who would people applaud–me or the cop?


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