LETTER: Will the town extend the beach season for dogs?

Submitted by David Mullen, Old Greenwich

First Selectman Fred Camillo is seeking public input on the advisability of increasing access to the Greenwich Point Park for dogs. As a resident of Old Greenwich who is a daily user of this crown jewel of the Greenwich Parks system, I would like to offer my views.

First, there are the obvious environmental issues regarding the fragility of this heavily used coastal environment, threats to migratory and nesting birds and sanitary considerations for humans on the beach in close proximity to pet waste. These issues alone should be convincing that increasing dog occupancy, although strongly advocated by some pet owners, is harmful to the interests of the broader community.

Further, there is the more disturbing fact that there is already flagrant disregard for leash laws and disrespect for the rights of other beach users regarding the requirement for owners to control their pets once allowed into the park. This problem is further exacerbated by the total lack of enforcement of existing Town regulations.

Any unbiased observer can plainly see that the vast majority of pet owners on the beach at any given time use no leashes and exercise no meaningful control over their animals. In fact, this is plainly evident in the candid photograph on the front page that accompanies the article showing a group of young girls with their unleashed dogs. Sadly, this state of affairs leads to multiple daily conflicts between dogs and their owners with runners and walkers on the beach who face exuberant or outright aggressive animals on a regular basis. This problem is so frequent that during dog season many of us are forced to forego the use of the beach entirely so as to avoid these unpleasant encounters.

The proposed fenced area for off-leash dogs would be inadequate to address these conflicts. This approach ignores a legal loophole that is not mentioned in the current article – namely that Town regulations cannot be enforced below the mean high tide level… and unleashed dogs do not care where the mean high tide level ends. Even if the Town of Greenwich committed the meaningful resources required to enforce Town regulations above the high tide level, (an expense that is unlikely to be approved) in reality the Town’s capacity to enforce reasonable use of this limited resource starts and ends at the Park entrance.

Thus, the expansion of dog use of the Greenwich Point Park will only lead to the expansion of preexisting conflicts. Until these conflicts are conclusively resolved, a one sided approach that favors the interests of dog owners over those of the other human and wildlife constituencies is ill advised.