Sharon Voters Say: No Beach Dog Ban Allowed
Selectmen commission study of Lake Massapoag pollution.
With several dog owners saying they didn't see a problem, Sharon voters didn't allow a dog ban at Veterans Memorial Park and Beach Monday night.
"Anyone that spends any time at the lake doesn't see dogs as a problem," said one resident, who called himself an avid user of the lake.
Lake Management Study Committee member David Deitz said dog droppings are polluting Lake Massapoag's water. They're also "a public health issue" for beach and park visitors who are "playing in the sand and walking in the sand," he said.
Selectman William Heitin said selectmen voted before the meeting to commission a study of Lake Massapoag's pollutants.
Selectmen "thought it was important to study what was going on with the water, good and bad," said Heitin, who worked at the lake 30 years ago.
Monday night's vote maintains the policy that selectmen adopted on Aug. 17, 2010 for the Beach Street site: 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.
Monday night's proposal sought to allow only service dogs, and dogs with a permit issued by selectmen, at the site. Police would fine violators $25 for the first offense, $50 for the second offense, and $100 for the third and subsequent offenses. Service dogs and dogs receiving a permit from the board of selectmen would be allowed.
Deitz said the proposed ban and related fines were not intended as "anti dog" but rather "anti dog feces."
The lake's water is far cleaner than it was during the 1980s, when algae, weeds and other issues prompted "periodic beach closings," Deitz said.
A state official now has said Lake Massapoag's quality is second to the Quabbin Reservoir, he said.
The lake committee has studied Massapoag since 1969, he said.
"Give us some credit. We've been dealing with issues at the lake for a long time," said Deitz, a physician.
Dog droppings are "something that we can control," he said. E.coli is "a common bacteria that is found in feces," he said.
"We do believe dogs are a part of the problem," Deitz said.
Selectmen Chairman Richard Powell said selectmen "have not received any complaints" about dogs during the policy's nearly two years in effect. "And our dog officer and beach guards have worked to enforce it," he said.
"We can make the lake as unfriendly to people as possible, just so we can look at it," said Powell, who said he walks his dog there.
Selectman Walter "Joe" Roach suggested Sharon address "several places we have streams and swamps draining into the lake," to "see if that is where some of the bacteria is coming from."
Some residents said geese were an issue at the lake, a problem that dogs have deterred.
One resident said the proposed ban tells beach and park users, "We don't trust you with regard to this specific issue."
"We should be policing each other and trusting each other," she said.
"That's the way to solve this problem."
Deitz said that "I think it's the people who aren't here who are making it difficult for everyone else."
Police Chief Joseph Bernstein said having police, not the dog officer, primarily enforce the ban concerned him.
"The police department can be a secondary enforcement authority, but we have an animal control officer who should do it," Bernstein said.