There’s a special town meeting coming up for West Tisbury, on Tuesday June 5. It seems to be generating some confusion about the dog situation on Lambert’s Cove Beach. It would be great if no time were wasted at the town meeting clearing up the confusion, so I would like to politely offer clarity on three particular points here.

First of all, this special town meeting is required because a ban on dogs was passed last fall and the town must figure out how to pay to enforce the ban. The partial repeal of that ban is not what makes the meeting necessary (although the repeal may add some items to the agenda). Recent media coverage, and the late timing of the meeting, make it appear to some people that dog owners’ demands are necessitating both the meeting and the extra expense of monitoring the beach. That is not the case. To repeat, for clarity: it was the ban’s passage last fall – not its partial repeal last month – that triggered the need for funding and enforcement; for some reason, the town did not act on that need until now.

Second, a sizable group called Friends of Lambert’s Cove Beach is working to make the partial repeal of the ban work to everyone’s satisfaction without costing the town extra money. When I spoke on behalf of the group at the annual town meeting, I said we did not have all the answers yet, but that we would work with the town toward making sure the beach stayed clean and safe for everyone. Since the ban was partially repealed, we have been doing exactly that: talking with the town.

The group has raised money to accomplish our stated goals, but we do not have the authority, as an independent entity, to implement them. The town officials are working with us to sort out details. That dialogue is taking place and seeing some progress. One of our suggestions was to hire someone (using the group’s money, not the town’s) to greet dog-walkers in the morning hours, to make sure they knew and followed all regulations and kept their dogs under control.

Ironically, as soon as the group and the town started to talk, a few people began to mutter that the group was failing in its efforts, because the town had been forced to step in. To interpret that — our doing what we said we’d do – as a failure takes remarkable negativity. Which brings me to the final point.

Third and most important, let’s keep in mind what a luxury it is that dogs on the beach are such a big concern. The West Tisbury school gymnasium is not Tahrir Square. I know how blessed I am to have nothing more dire to speak up about than walking my dog on the beach.

Speaking for myself (not necessarily for the group this time), it is less important that other people agree with me, and more important that the dialogue we engage in reflects our appreciation to be having that dialogue in the first place. If we cannot all be attentive and respectful toward each other on this matter, then what kind of community would we be if something genuinely significant came along to shake us up? This is a low-risk opportunity for all of us to practice not only direct government, but neighborly government. We have more in common than divides us. Let’s act like it.


Nicole Galland lives in West Tisbury.