2017-04-07 / Front Page

Dog ban proposed on beaches

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — From Scarborough, to Saco, to South Portland, one of the most hotly debated and divisive topics in recent years has been the subject of dogs on the beach.

Now, that fight is coming to Kennebunk, with one resident claiming canine use of Kennebunk beach is “out of control.”

At the March 28 meeting of the board of selectmen, Surf Lane resident Gary John Fumicello asked that hours when dogs are allowed on public beaches be more severely restricted or, more to his liking, that their presence be banned completely.

“I’m kind of in awe as to why we are allowing an unleashed, unmanned dog park in a public area,” he said of the beaches. “That’s what it is, an unmanned dog park in a public area. The town in my opinion is one bite, or one old person being knocked down, from a massive lawsuit.”

Currently, dogs are not allowed on public beaches between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., from June 15 until Labor Day, and, when on the beach, must be under “voice control” if not on a leash. However, Fumicello said that right up until the 9 a.m. cutoff, he sees “hundreds of dogs” running free.

Fumicello, a local chef, said he is concerned about sanitary conditions as well as safety.

“At 9:05 we are allowing the public to go down there and sit, swim, play, and bathe in this sand that has been urinated in all morning. People are using this pubic beach as a public toilet rather than cleaning up their own yards.”

One member of the board, Ed Karytko, thanked Fumicello for taking the podium during the public comment portion of the March 28 meeting.

“We really have no idea how things are going. It really takes people like yourself to come forward to say, hey, look, I think we’ve got a problem,” he said, adding, “The way you explained it, I began to think, well, I guess this [beach conditions] isn’t as nice as I thought it was.”

However, board chairman Dick Morin declined to allow protracted debate on an item not on the meeting agenda.

“Your points are well taken but I don’t think we are in a position tonight to be able to debate it,” he said.

Instead, Morin advised Fumicello to take his concerns to the town’s dog advisory committee and then to the ordinance committee, where his ideas can get drafted into a formal presentation for selectmen to consider.

“That’s the way it will get back before this board,” he said.

Town Clerk Merton Brown said the dog advisory committee was slated to discuss Fumicellos’ concerns at its April 13 meeting, and that it was expected to invite him to speak at its May 10 session.

If the committee fails to see merit in Fumicello’s concerns, or if selectmen fail to act on any ordinance amendment it might come up with, he is not without recourse.

Fumicello could force a beach ban onto the November ballot with a petition. According to the town charter, a petition to enact a proposed ordinance must have signatures from registered Kennebunk voters equal to “at least 7 percent of the number of votes cast in the town for the office of governor at the last gubernatorial election.”

According to Brown, that currently pegs the minimum signature requirement at 463.

As a measure of how intense feelings are for the dog issue, one only has to look to social media.

Two days after Fumicello spoke before selectmen, a resident solicited opinion on the question from the Facebook public group, “You Know You’re From Kennebunk Maine If . . .”

In the five days since that post, it was drawn more than 250 individual comments. Those comments were largely in favor of maintaining the status quo.

One person in that camp was at the March 28 meeting, and rose to spoke in defense of dogs. Bill Ward, who lives near the beach, acknowledged, “there have been a lot of dogs down there for a number of years.”

However, Ward complimented the dog committee for its efforts in “keeping things picked up.”

“As far as danger and hazard from waste, little kids are taking down their bathing suits and urinating on the beach, which I’ve seen. Mothers leaving diapers full of human waste on the beach, that I’ve seen. People leaving pizza boxes down on the beach, that I’ve seen. Drunk people at night urinating on the beach, that I’ve seen.

“So, if pollution is the issue, and the responsible dog owner should pick up after their dogs ... ” Ward started, until cut off by Morin.

Ward then interjected with “one last comment,” adding an amendment to the dog ordinance he would support.

“If somebody is not a good dog owner and not picking up after their dog, they should be fined more,” he said.

“That is certainly something that can go before the committee,” Morin said.

Violations of Kennebunk’s dog control rules currently net fines of up to $250.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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