Sharon Health Board OKs Seasonal Ban of Animals From Beach
Dog dropping data at beach to be collected over the next three weeks, which could lead to the ban being rescinded.
Citing concerns about people being exposed to dog feces in the sand, the Sharon Board of Health voted 3-2 Monday night to implement a seasonal ban of animals -- primarily affecting dogs -- from Veteran's Memorial Park and Beach and the fenced area of Community Center Beach in three weeks.
The catch: Sharon will track the amount of dog feces on the site over those three weeks, and the board will rescind the ban if the results warrant it.
Chairman Suzi Peck and members Jay Schwab and Stanley Rosen voted for the ban, which takes the form of a health board regulation. Members Andrew Stead and Edward Welch voted against it.
The vote did not specify the calendar parameters of the ban, including its official start date. However, the board voted on a version of a proposal it discussed last Tuesday night, with new language from Rosen. Last week's discussion included talk of having the ban from April 15 to Oct. 15.
After Monday night's vote, Town Administrator Benjamin Puritz said he would ask Animal Control Officer Diane Malcolmson to walk the beach daily and photograph and report dog feces she sees. Recreation or public works staff would remove it, he said.
Peck said data on the presence of dog feces would give the board "additional credibility" if it shows a ban is warranted.
"If we find out we've got a lot of poop, then the board of health is going to be completely justified," Peck said.
The vote came after Puritz and Selectman Richard Powell discussed with the board a proposed health board regulation amendment from Town Counsel Richard Gelerman.
The proposal, Gelerman wrote, sought "to reach a coordinated effort" among the health board; the selectmen, as Sharon's park commissioners; and the conservation commission, regarding "controlling dogs at Memorial Park."
Both the health and conservation boards have discussed the issue since a majority of voters at the May 7 annual town meeting rejected a proposed dog ban at Veteran's Memorial Park Beach.
The conservation commission has invited selectmen, as the park commissioners, to its meeting Thursday night. The commission says selectmen implemented the current dog access policy for the beach nearly two years ago without the commission's required review.
That policy, adopted on Aug. 17, 2010 for the Beach Street site, states: dogs are prohibited from the beach from Memorial Day to Labor Day while the beach is staffed, or open for a public event, the policy states. Dogs are restricted to the path, and leashed, at all other times, the policy states.
Powell called Gelerman's proposal sought to deal with "almost like a mini constitutional crisis in town as to who's got jurisdiction" and "at the same time, support the vote at town meeting."
Selectmen haven't heard complaints about dog droppings on the beach, Powell said.
Schwab reiterated his support for a year-round ban, which he proposed recently.
Puritz said it would be "probably more effective" to improve signage and to make more pick-up gloves available to the public.
But, Conservation Commission Administrator Gregory Meister encouraged the health board members "to do their job and protect the public."
"If I had a pool and I saw poop on the deck of my pool, I'd probably have a problem with it," Meister said.
Sharon Patch may update this story later today.