A Scarborough committee wants to further restrict dogs on town beaches, but proposes scaling back significantly from an ordinance that would have banned unleashed dogs on all town property, which was overwhelmingly rejected by town voters late last year.

The committee proposes regulating dogs on the beaches largely by season – for instance, banning them from town beaches from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from May 15 until the day after Labor Day – with the aim of protecting endangered piping plovers, which often nest on Scarborough’s beaches in the spring and early summer. Dogs would be allowed on Scarborough beaches between those dates in the mornings and evenings, but would have to be leashed.

An unleashed dog killed a piping plover on Pine Point Beach last July, prompting the threat of a large fine from federal officials and leading the town to explore ways to keep unleashed dogs off beaches, an effort that has proven controversial.

The committee was set up after voters in December turned down the ban on unleashed dogs on town property. Its proposal, drafted by Town Manager Tom Hall, who acted as facilitator for the committee, suggests additional steps to protect plovers, such as stricter enforcement of a ban on beach fireworks around Independence Day, moving trash cans on Pine Point Beach further away from nesting areas and encouraging cat owners to keep their pets indoors.

In addition, beaches could be “released” from some of the stricter regulations if no plovers have established nests by July 14, or if at least 40 days have passed since the last plover chick hatched.

Hall said the complex proposal is a way to balance the need to protect plovers with allowing pets and their owners to enjoy the beaches. Including other measures to protect plovers, rather than focusing solely on dog restrictions, reinforces the underlying goal of the measure, he said.

Hall said banning unleashed dogs on all town property was too broad an approach to a problem that really concerns only beaches.

The proposal will be reviewed by the Town Council in a workshop Wednesday and Hall said the town hopes a plan will be in place when the first restriction – no unleashed dogs on beaches from April 1 to May 15 – would kick in. Unleashed dogs would be allowed on beaches from the day after Labor Day to March 31, except from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., when leashes would be required.

Hall said that provision would provide off-season beach time for people who don’t like dogs or are afraid of them.

But one of the chief opponents of restrictions on dogs said the new proposal is no compromise.

Bob Rovner, who lives near Pine Point Beach, said the plan would still put too many limits on unleashed dogs. He said the town doesn’t do enough to enforce its current rule, which requires dogs to be leashed on beaches during the summer after a morning unleashed period lasting from dawn until 9 a.m. The current ordinance doesn’t require leashes the rest of the year.

“The town itself is not doing what it’s supposed to be doing,” he said.

Rovner also said the move to change the rules is an overreaction to an isolated incident. He said two plovers have been found dead in 20 years in the town – the one last July, killed by an unleashed dog, and another from unknown causes.

The shorebirds face a bigger threat from wild animals, such as foxes, he said, than from dogs under voice control of their owners.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has warned Scarborough it may face a $12,000 fine from last summer’s plover death, but officials told the town the fine would be reduced to $500 if unleashed dogs are banned from beaches from April through August.

Although the plan would do that if plover nests are present, the proposal could allow unleashed dogs in the mornings after July 14, based on the “release” clause.

Hall said he hadn’t discussed that option with federal officials and said it made no sense to sit down with them until the council makes a decision.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]