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 (200-300 off-leash dogs on a weekend day in the summer, according to a park ranger, and 50-60 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-round 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 year-round from 7-11 a.m. (four-hour blocks will lessen the concentration of dogs) and “beach dog tags” administered by the city to control the number of dogs and to provide accountability.

Diane Gotelli
South Portland