By Dan Moffett and Jane Smith
With a 3-2 vote, Boynton Beach city commissioners approved exploring the possibility of opening Oceanfront Park to some level of dog use.
“I’d like to see some middle ground,” said Mayor Steven Grant, who cast a deciding vote at the city’s May 1 meeting. “Saying dogs get zero days a year doesn’t make sense to me.”
Grant says he wants staff to draft a proposal for limited use of the beach by dogs on a trial basis and to bring it back to the commission at its next meeting.
Commissioners Joe Casello and Justin Katz sided with Grant. Vice Mayor Christina Romelus and Commissioner Mack McCray opposed the idea.
“I love my dog but I would not force my dog on anyone,” Romelus said.
Grant said whatever the city ultimately decides to do, it will need Ocean Ridge’s help to do it. And Ocean Ridge, which polices the beach, has made it clear to Boynton Beach that the town’s ordinances prohibit dogs and that is not going to change, City Attorney James Cherof said.
“It’s our beach,” Casello said. “Ocean Ridge can’t tell us what to do.”
Katz said a “well-crafted program” could work and was worth trying at least on a temporary basis. He also was persuaded by the results of an online survey.
Boynton Recreation & Parks Chairwoman Betty Pierce-Roe presented the findings of the advisory board and the results from a resident’s survey about allowing dogs on the beach.
In late March, the advisory board members recommended against allowing dogs at Oceanfront Park.
They voted 5-1 after reviewing the results of a residents’ survey where nearly 70 percent were for allowing dogs on the beach during select days and hours. About 56 percent of the survey takers wanted the dogs to be leashed. Close to 900 people responded to the unscientific survey posted on the city’s website.
“Our beach is not the right place to have it,” said Charles Kanter, a board member who made the motion. He said the short length of the beach — 960 feet — does not provide enough space for a dog park. The residents’ survey did not specify the beach length available for dogs.
A dog owner, board member Christina Johnson wanted to allow dogs at Oceanfront Park.
“Not that many residents would buy the permits,” she said.
Casello raised the topic in August after taking his dog, Charlie, a Cairn terrier, to the dog beach in Jupiter.
“He really loves it,” Casello said last year.
At Jupiter’s Dog Beach, no permits are required for the 2.5-mile stretch of beach. Lately, Jupiter’s vice mayor has talked about decreasing the beach portion where dogs are allowed.
In December, Grant asked the city’s Parks Advisory Board to poll residents about allowing dogs on the beach at Oceanfront Park.
The park, while owned by Boynton Beach, sits within the town of Ocean Ridge. That arrangement led to an October meeting between Boynton Beach city management and their Ocean Ridge counterparts. The message from Ocean Ridge was clear: Its laws do not allow animals on the public beach. Private beach owners, though, could allow dogs.
Boynton Beach staff delivered that message in December. Even so, Casello wanted to proceed with creating a dog beach at Oceanfront Park.