By Rich Pollack
If Delray Beach were to create a dog beach, what’s to stop dogs from digging up sea turtle nests?
What would the city do if a dog owner failed to clean up after his or her pet?
And what could be done to make sure that others on the beach without dogs don’t find themselves face to face with a growling German shepherd?
All of these questions surfaced last month during a meeting hosted by Delray Beach’s Parks and Recreation Director Suzanne Davis, who is continuing to seek feedback from residents before bringing recommendations regarding a dog beach to the Delray Beach City Commission.
“We want to be sure we look at all the reasons people are for a dog beach and all the reasons people are against it,” Davis said.
The meeting, the second of three designed to seek input from the community, gave people with concerns about the impact of a dog beach the chance to raise questions and at the same time it allowed those in favor of the idea to make suggestions that would address some of the issues.
Davis told residents that after gathering information from other communities with successful dog beaches, listening to residents and studying the results of an online survey, her department would make a series of proposals to City Manager Donald Cooper, who could then bring them to the City Commission.
She said her department is exploring one alternative for a separated dog beach at either or both recreation areas at the north and south ends of the public beach.
Currently, city ordinances prohibit dogs on the city’s public beach.
Many of the questions raised at the Delray Beach meeting were similar to those raised more than a year and a half ago before Boca Raton opened its dog beach.
Since then, Boca Raton has found few of the issues have surfaced.
“It’s going extremely well,” said Boca Raton Parks and Recreation Director Mickey Gomez. “There are times when there will be 60 dogs out there and there are people who go just to watch the dogs play.”
Gomez said the city has issued more than 1,200 dog beach permits, most of those going to city residents who pay $30 as opposed to non-residents who pay more.
Park rangers at either end of the dog beach, situated between lifeguard towers 18 and 20, check to make sure people have permits to use the dog beach, which is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings and evenings.
He said the city has found that most dog owners clean up after their pets but added that the city has a maintenance crew follow up after the dog beach closes.
“If we’ve had five incidents of crews having to clean up after dogs that would be a lot,” Gomez said.
Before opening the dog beach, Boca Raton checked with turtle experts at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center who said that raccoons and other animals were more likely than dogs to disturb turtle nests. Gomez said there hasn’t been a problem with dogs on the beach disturbing turtle nests.
In Delray Beach, Davis said she is planning to host one more meeting before coming up with recommendations to present to city leaders.
By Rich Pollack