Dog-free beach time is essential

To the editor,

What began as a privilege (off-leash dogs part-time in the summer months and full-time from Oct. 1 to April 30) is now viewed by many dog owners as an entitlement. An entitlement despite a dog population explosion (200 to 300 off-leash dogs on a weekend day in the summer, according to a park ranger, and 50 to 60 now). And despite other serious issues: injuries to both humans and dogs, degraded dunes and grasses, feces and urine contamination, and failure of “immediate voice control” to curtail unruly/unsafe behaviors.

This attitude of entitlement excludes many from enjoying the beach: small children and dogs, older people (many with small dogs and/or grandchildren), individuals with disabilities and non-dog people, among others.

Dog-free time on the beach is essential year around for inclusive public access and for the city to send a clear message that Willard Beach is not a dog park.

As a dog lover and beach walker, I suggest off-leash time from 7 to 11 a.m. year around (four-hour blocks will lessen the concentration of dogs), and “beach dog tags” administered by the city to control numbers and to provide accountability.

Diane Gotelli
South Portland

Dog discussion should include Hinckley Park

To the editor,

The South Portland discussion about dogs in Hinckley Park misses half of the issue: the dog-owners in Hinckley Park. Now, in my 70s, my daily walks with my friendly dog, who is trained to show me exactly where he pooped, are not just good for him. They are good for me, too. I straighten my back, pull in the core muscles, lengthen my stride, and walk briskly.

I don’t walk this way in Hannaford or at the end of a leash. When we are on a leash, I sometimes get caught up in it, and struggle not to fall. I know how a broken leg feels, and worry about tripping. I delight in seeing my dog stretch out, explore, and meet other dogs. I understand that some people have reasons to use a leash, but I am not alone in having reasons not to.

I lived in Portland, not far from the bridge, for 30 years, walked my various dogs at Hinckley, and did all of my business – from banking to groceries- in South Portland. So, when I retired, I bought a house in Ferry Village, and loved being near Bug Light and Hinckley. But, this last summer, there were, sadly, only two or three cars in the Hinckley lot on any given day, and the few times that we walked there, we were watched and admonished by uniformed park officers. I drove away wondering if we were headed for a new era of cameras and facial identification, as in some countries where one is never trusted nor alone.

Hinckley Park doesn’t have a pristine history; it was pasture with farm ponds where animals cooled and drank water. And, it was home to an ice industry with conveyor belts, horses, wagon, trucks, etc.

Today, various animals and humans seek access to the water in less intrusive ways. Deer, ducks, turtles, fishermen and dogs want access to the water all year long. Algae and erosion can be managed.

My dog and I appreciate access to shady trails, nice people, nice dogs, beautiful fields and ponds, and the chance to move our bodies as they were built to move: unleashed – in the park that brought us to this city.

Karen Sanford

South Portland

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