Camillo: Dog Season Extension at Beach to Focus on Fall

Submitted by Fred Camillo, Greenwich First Selectman

After reading a recent op-ed on the proposal to extend the beach season at Tod’s Point for dogs, I believe I need to respond to clarify the intention of the proposal, and to offer the alternative viewpoint.

Currently, residents and non-residents alike are allowed to bring their pets to Tod’s from Dec. 1st through March 31st. That equals a total of only four months. A recent review of neighboring shoreline towns, both north and south of Greenwich shows that, on average, municipalities allow for a six-month season (some are even longer).  What I am proposing is just to mirror what is allowed in other towns so that our residents and their dogs can enjoy one of our Town’s jewels. 

While many have suggested we add one month at the end of the season (April), and one to three at the beginning (September to November), I would prefer focusing on the fall.  Each spring Tod’s Point offers a natural habitat for migratory birds to nest which is a critical part of the beauty and wonder of the Point. The Fall compromise would be, I believe, welcomed by so many of our residents (and their four-legged best friends). 

While opponents have suggested that a policy adjustment would have adverse effects on the park and our fellow residents, I would remind everyone of the last great dog debate here in Town. In 2000, myself and a few others met in the cafeteria of Town Hall to embark on an endeavor to provide the Town with  its first ever dog park. We thought it was strange that in a Town this size, and with so many dog lovers, that our residents had to go to neighboring towns to enjoy a dedicated space for dogs. We determined that these towns had no issues, and even places like New York City, with many more obstacles and issues to consider, didn’t have any trouble in approving dozens within the city’s limits. 

We also heard predictions of lawsuits, dogs running wild, land values being negatively affected and messes all over the place. It was a constant battle with neighbors of potential park locations threatening suits and issuing warnings. Nevertheless, after a five-year effort, we finally secured the Town’s first ever dog park at Grass Island. Since 2005, none of these predictions came true. In fact, there are loud and varied calls for a second dog park to be found in Town, an idea I wholeheartedly support. The first successful 16 years of the Grass Island park has shown that the claims of future problems made by opponents must be answered with fact, reality, and honest dialogue. I believe in listening to all concerns, but also in making decisions that are based on fact, research, and evidence.

When considering the beach extension for dogs, I would also like to remind everyone that not everyone is comfortable with dogs. For those who may have a fear, I would propose that the Town also take a page out of other towns playbooks and cordon off an area on the sand for dogs to run freely.

In this way, a part of the sand at Greenwich Point would be available to those who prefer to not be in close proximity with the dogs so they could enjoy that area 12 months a year, rather than avoid it during the dog (off) season. This compromise would complete an adjusted policy that respects the rights and wishes of our dog loving community, wildlife supporters, and those who love Tod’s Point, but are more comfortable being at a distance from our canine friends.

In the coming months, we will be discussing these proposals and listening to your feedback.

In the meantime, stay safe, keep the leashes close by, have the clean-up bags handy, and enjoy our many parks and trails!

Fred Camillo
First Selectman, Town of Greenwich
Canine Dad to Teddy Roosevelt Camillo and Reagan Camillo