2015-07-10 / Community

New beach rule has gone to the dogs

By Duke Harrington Staff Writer


A sign at Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport advises beachgoers of the rules regarding piping plovers and other endangered shorebirds. The town’s new animal control ordinance, adopted June 9, will go to voters for amendment in November after it was discovered it is inadvertently more restrictive than intended. (Duke Harrington photo) A sign at Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport advises beachgoers of the rules regarding piping plovers and other endangered shorebirds. The town’s new animal control ordinance, adopted June 9, will go to voters for amendment in November after it was discovered it is inadvertently more restrictive than intended. (Duke Harrington photo) KENNEBUNKPORT — Questions about Kennebunkport’s new animal control ordinance, adopted by voters June 9, will mean a re-vote this November.

Approval of the new rules, which updated a dog ordinance last revised in 1976, passed with room to spare, 951-376.

The new rules allow dogs to run off leash only from 6 to 7:30 a.m. between April 1 and Sept. 30. From 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. and after 6 p.m., dogs must be leashed when on town beaches. From June 15 to Sept. 30, dogs are not allowed on the beach at all between 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., with the exception of working service dogs.

However, Town Manager Laurie Smith said it was realized too late that the update, as written, could be interpreted to mean dogs must be kept entirely out of the West End Plover Protector Area (WEPPA) of Goose Rocks Beach. Reading the ordinance that way would ban dogs year-round from the beach area between the Batson River to a point 200 feet east of Norwood Lane.

The ordinance language was first questioned at a meeting of the Goose Rocks Beach Advisory Committee in May, but by then, Smith said, it was too late to amend the ballot.

“It is clear that the intent was not the language that ended up being there in the ordinance,” she said. “The intent of the beach committee is that if dogs are on the west end, they should be leashed, never to be under voice and sight control.”

Additionally, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has recently weighed in on the ordinance, Smith said. The ordinance bars dogs from being within 200 feet of roped-off areas set aside for nesting shore birds. However, as Smith noted, in some cases that 200-foot buffer zone encroaches on private property, including the homes of some dog owners.

“If they have a dog, how does the dog even move in that area?” Smith asked, rhetorically. “They (IF&W) wouldn’t argue that a dog should not be allowed in its own home, but if the owners were trying to access the beach area they should stay as far from the nesting area as possible.”

Smith said a new draft of the ordinance will be placed on the November ballot. Until then, as a “temporary measure,” the rules as they appear in the adopted ordinance will not be enforced until that time. That means dogs can be in the WEPPA area during the appropriate times on leash. Additionally, dog owners will not be ticketed for approaching within the 200-foot barrier of an “essential habitat” if they need to pass that area to access the beach. If that buffer zone falls within a homeowner’s lawn the dog gets a free pass as well.

Chairman Sheila Matthews Bull also held open the possibility that additional amendments could be made.

“Because this is new, it’s kind of a work in progress,” she said. “Maybe by the end of the summer we may have other issues. We’re not sure. But for the time being, I think this is a good fix.”

Matthews-Bull also complimented the Goose Rocks Beach Advisory Committee, which is spending $300 to update informational brochures to pass around to beach-goers.

“I know from working with the advisory committee, they are making every effort to ensure the guests on the beach deal with their animals appropriately and that they all get the instruction they need to follow our new ordinance,” she said. “They’ve worked very, very hard.”

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