Beachgoers whisking their dogs onto Joseph Sylvia State Beach for a quick spin hoping no one notices may want to think twice this summer — the Dukes County commissioners are calling for a volunteer-based patrol program to help enforce the no-dogs policy.
Chairman of the commission Tristan Israel presented the idea of creating a “county courtesy ranger” program at the commission’s weekly meeting on Wednesday, suggesting a group of seven people be appointed to patrol the public beach. Mr. Israel said the volunteers would also enforce other regulations, such as keeping off the dunes and out of wildlife habitat, no alcohol and no kite flying during nesting season.
“If there’s a violation with the dogs the person could approach the individual and remind them of the regulations,” Mr. Israel said. “If the person did not respond positively, we would call the Edgartown animal control, Oak Bluffs police department or the sheriff and inform them of the violation.”
The volunteers would carry two cards with them — one identifying themselves as a county volunteer and the other with the regulations — and be able to approach dog owners acting under the authority of the county. The beach is owned by the state but managed by the county, and dogs are prohibited from April 1 through Oct. 1. Dogs are allowed on the beach starting Sept. 1 before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m.
There is a $50 fine for each infraction. County manager Russell Smith said the beach is closed to dogs during the summer season for two reasons — to protect threatened shorebirds including piping plovers and it is “not an appropriate place” for dogs when the beach is crowded.
The problem of increasing use of town and public beaches by people with dogs is not new, and just last month the West Tisbury parks and recreation committee decided to ban out-of-towners from bringing their dogs to Lambert’s Cove Beach.
The decision came after a series of complaints from beachgoers unhappy with dog walkers leaving droppings behind in the sand and uncontrolled canines ruining sunset picnics. West Tisbury pooches must now be registered with the town for their own beach permit and can only be on the beach before 10 a.m. and after 6:30 p.m.
Mr. Smith said he thought this was the best option so far for the state beach.
“Short of moving down there and camping out I think it’s a good idea,” he said. “The previous stuff we’ve tried to do with signs hasn’t worked.”
But Vineyard Haven resident and frequent beachgoer Woody Williams said he doubts the enforcement will help. Mr. Williams was on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting but did not attend.
“People are just freely walking their dogs, they’re in the dunes, and when you say something to them they just tell you to mind your own business or they ignore you and keep on walking,” Mr. Williams said yesterday when reached by telephone. “It’s aggravating as hell. There’s no enforcement and people don’t care. It’s not cool.”
“I told [the county] I’m on you guys like a new suit,” he added. “They’re not going to do anything. I’m not happy.”
Mr. Israel said he will approach the Edgartown and Oak Bluffs selectmen about the idea. Meanwhile, the commission has asked the Barrier Beach Task Force and Friends of Sengekontacket to assist in enforcing the policy before the new group is advertised and appointed.
The commission also took a series of swift votes, including becoming a member of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, a nonprofit and nonpartisan association that provides training, publications and advocacy to Massachusetts towns and cities. They also voted to declare July 7 Vineyard philanthropy day to recognize the nonprofit and volunteer work on the Island. Commissioner John Alley was the dissenting voice in the 4-1 vote.
Mr. Smith reported the county is on target to end the fiscal year within budget, and the projected revenue this year is $47,615 more than anticipated. He attributed the increase to fees from the registry of deeds, land court and Cape and Island license plates.
In other business, the county is providing prescription cards for Vineyarders who do not have prescription drug coverage under their current health plan. The cards provide a 50 per cent discount on generic drugs, and the county receives a small royalty from each prescription filled. The cards are accepted at most Island pharmacies.
There is no residency requirement and no fee. Applications are available at the county office at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. More information can be found at coast2coastrx.com.