By Jane Smith
Dogs won’t frolic at Oceanfront Park anytime soon.
That’s the recommendation the Boynton Beach Recreation & Parks Board made in late March.
Members voted 5-1 after reviewing 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. Slightly more than 1,100 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 despite the poll result. He said the short length of the beach at 960 feet does not provide enough space for a dog park.
Board member Christina Johnson was for allowing dogs at Oceanfront Park. “Not that many residents would buy the permits,” she said.
The City Commission will discuss the issue on April 20.
Commissioner Joe Casello raised the topic last August after taking his cairn terrier, Charlie, to the dog beach in Jupiter. “He really loves it,” Casello said.
At Jupiter’s Dog Beach, no permits are required for the 2.5-mile stretch of beach. Lately, the town’s vice mayor has talked about decreasing the beach portion where dogs are allowed.
In December, Boynton Beach Mayor Steven Grant asked the parks 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 staffers 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 the start of the parks board’s discussion, Recreation & Parks Director Wally Majors proposed allowing dogs at Oceanfront Park on three days, Fridays through Sundays, for a limited time each morning and evening.
The morning time would be 7 to 8:30, Majors said. In the evenings from November to March, the hours would be 4:30 to 6, and in the off-season from April to October, the hours could be 5 to 8, he said.
Two board members wanted to know what would happen to the owners who kept their dogs on the beach longer. Would they be fined? That’s to be decided, Majors said.
Monitoring the dog beach at Oceanfront Park would cost between $15,000 and $20,000. The amount would cover hiring a park ranger to enforce the boundaries and time limits and then for a maintenance crew to clean the beach, Majors said.
He didn’t think volunteers could be counted on to do the work, although volunteers run the dog beach in Jupiter.
Majors also wanted people to buy permits to ensure the dogs are up to date on shots.
Asked whether they would be willing to buy a permit, 430 survey takers, or slightly more than 66 percent, said yes and 225 said no.
But 475 people skipped the question. Their lack of response created uncertainty about how many people would buy the permit.