Greenwich First Selectman Hopes to Extend Dog Season at Town Beaches

A discussion about changing the town ordinance to extend the time dogs are allowed at town beaches, including Tod’s Point, took place during the Board of Selectmen meeting on Thursday.

Currently the season for dogs at the beach is four months: Dec 1 through March 31.

First Selectman Fred Camillo, who said he brings his dogs to the beach daily, said most towns along the shoreline, including New York, typically have a six month season for dogs. Nearby, Rye Playland Beach is still open for dogs through April 30.

“In the past, years ago, (the dog season) was aligned to be consistent with the boating season, which was Nov 15 to April 15,” he said. “Even that would give two weeks on the front end and two weeks on the back end – another month.”

He said some towns start on Oct 1, others go until Memorial Day, but switching to Nov 1 to April 30 would create a total of 6 months.

“It’s a beautiful treasure and we want to make sure it’s always kept clean, but we also want to make sure it’s available to all, including those who have their dogs and like to go down there.”

– Greenwich First selectman Fred Camillo

“I’d love to see dog owners be a be to take advantage of the beautiful park there, and to align it with other towns,” he said. “It’s not like people are laying out at the beach on April 1. They’re not.”

Camillo said in the past there was a reluctance of some parties to an extension.

“I think we have to have it under control, and we can go to great efforts and lengths to be sure people coming from out of town adhere to the leash laws, and ‘under your control,’ which is the state law – and cleaning up,” he said.

“Most are behaved. Once in a while you see somebody who doesn’t clean up, and you mention it to them, but you also bring extra bags and clean up, just in case,” he said. “It’s always going to be an issue.”

Leashed dogs are only allowed at Tod's Point from December 1 through March 31. Credit: Leslie Yager
Electronic sign at Tod’s Point. File photo

Ms Oberlander, a dog owner, said it was a topic worthy of discussion, but there should be an opportunity for public input.

She said it would be important to look at bird nesting patterns and environmental impacts.

“Some of the things I’ve heard in the past is that having dogs there interferes with the natural nesting patterns of some of the birds – and it is sort of a bird sanctuary,” she said. “We also have a population who are birders and naturalists.”

Leashed dogs are only allowed at Tod's Point from December 1 through March 31. Credit: Leslie Yager
Currently, leashed dogs are only allowed at Tod’s Point from December 1 through March 31. Credit: Leslie Yager
Leashed dogs are only allowed at Tod's Point from December 1 through March 31. Credit: Leslie Yager
Electronic sign at entrance to Tod’s Point warns dog owners their dogs must be leashed or risk a $127 fine.

Also, Oberlander said, “Dogs on leashes get in the way of people on bikes. I think there are a number of competing interests.”

“The conversation is one we need to have,” Camillo said. “Dogs have been allowed down there for years. It’s worked overall very well. You’re always going to have isolated incidents.”

But, he added, everyone would need to behave responsibly including bikers, walkers, dog owners and hikers.

Camillo said he wanted to present a plan that would address concerns, “so that everyone has a buy in.”

“I can tell you there is great support for this around town,” he said. “I’d be all ears for protocols put in place to make sure people do the right thing.”

He noted there is a flashing sign at the beach that warns people to follow local and state ordinances including leashing their dogs.

“There are people who are deathly afraid,” he said. “I know in Florida they have that figured out. There’s certainly a way to do it. Those who don’t like dogs or are afraid of them, they have just as much right as everyone else.”

Lauren Rabin far more than just sand and water make the park an appealing place to walk a dog.

The idea of extending the season for dogs at the beach has come up in the past.

The Parks & Rec board discussed it at length in 2015 and 2015.

In 2016 Parks & Rec board member Gary Dell’Abate said he supported a group of residents who wanted to launch a pilot program to separate the beach so that dogs are allowed in only a portion.

Then Assistant Director of Parks & Rec Tom Greco said he and Sergeant Thorme had mapped out a space for dogs on the beach and even appeared before the health department, but that the police hadn’t been willing to provide enforcement.

Joe Siciliano referred to a “free-for-all” with loose dogs. He said that once the season for dogs at the beach ended, people simply bring their dogs to places like the Babcock Preserve and Mianus River Gorge and let them loose. He also said that the first warm, sunny day in April, that people flock to Tod’s Point.

Back in 2015 the Parks & Rec board held a hearing before they voted on whether to extend the dog season two weeks on each end.

A resident, Tami Lopez, said a petition asking for the extension had a goal of 500 signatures, but garnered well over 700 within 24 hours.

Camillo, then a State Rep, urged the board to approve the plan.

Then board chair Nancy Caplan said the Audubon was concerned about the bird population, and that the Health Dept was opposed to the idea based on dogs defecating on the beach and dog bites in general. She said the shellfish commission was amenable to the idea, but concerned dog owners would not pick up after their dogs.

Caplan said Greenwich Police Dept opposed the extension, pointing out that the leash law is not obeyed during existing dog season, describing it as “an out of control situation.”

Greenwich Police Sgt. Thorme, a former canine officer, said, “Speaking for the Chief, the Chief is not in favor of extending the program at all…. Dogs are off leash. People go down there and socialize and before you know it we have dog-on-dog bites.”

“If it were up to the police department, there wouldn’t be dogs at all in the park,” Thorme continued. “Our animal control operation is a three person operation with one man in the kennel, and two ladies on the road.”

At the end of the meeting the board voted 7-2 against the proposal.