March 21, 2018
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Parks commission head on beach poop problem: ‘Dog owners are the NRA of Kittery’

Rich Beauchesne | Portsmouth Herald
Rich Beauchesne | Portsmouth Herald
Dog prints are seen on Seapoint Beach in Kittery, where town officials are considering new fees for dog passes to access the beach as part of an effort to curb waste.
By Alex LaCasse, Portsmouth Herald

KITTERY, Maine — The Town Council and the Parks Commission discussed requiring passes for dog owners to bring their canines to both Fort Foster and Seapoint Beach as a means of curbing dog waste.

Monday night’s workshop on the town-owned park management plan quickly shifted to how to reduce the amount of dog waste in the parks. Councilor Jeff Thomson said he was in favor of instituting some kind of pass system for dogs.

“Why are dogs allowed in Fort Foster in a park that is open to the public? When a family comes to the gate and there’s a dog in the car do they pay extra? Why not?” Thomson said on Monday. “It sounds like there is an issue that is either unsolvable or we’re unwilling to solve because of the cost involved, but we’re still creating the issue that needs some type of addressing.”

Parks Commission co-chair Paige Mead compared town dog owners’ steadfast commitment to keeping Fort Foster open for their pets to the lobbying efforts of the National Rifle Association and its members.

“Historically, the dog owners are the NRA of Kittery. It’s very politically sensitive,” Mead said Monday. “I think the dog owners would gladly pay a little extra because the only thing they fear is having the town close Fort Foster or Seapoint to dogs and this could be a way of making the Town Council make a decision.”

Councilor Matt Brock said he wanted to see additional waste receptacles installed at both Fort Foster and Seapoint Beach but emphasized both destinations should remain available to residents bringing their dogs.

“I appreciate the plan makes clear that you continue to support people being allowed to let their dogs run in both those locations. Having said that, to the extent we can reduce any waste issues, I think we can get more public support,” said Brock. “The easier you make it to comply with the law, you get more compliance. Currently, the vast majority of people do comply, but I think (adding additional waste receptacles) would help and encourage.”

Town Manager Kendra Amaral said if additional waste receptacles are installed at either location, it will require additional town staff and resources in order to properly manage the collection of dog waste.

“There is a significant cost to it because it’s not just have one barrel and empty it when they’re normally on duty. They have to go back on the weekends and when they start overflowing then they’re going to start dumping the bags again around the receptacles,” Amaral said. “As we’ve seen through the winter, folks are going in there with dogs even when the park isn’t open.”

Parks Commission co-chair Rich DeMarco said the commission has been monitoring the number of dogs that come into Fort Foster, but until this point the commission has deemed dog passes unnecessary. He credited residents like former Town Councilor Judy Spiller for helping to start the Friends of Fort Foster who do volunteer cleanups of the park, most notably “April Stools” Day to clean up the dog waste that accumulated over the winter.

“We presented a number of solutions to try before the thought of banning dogs from the park was on the table, and we’re trying those solutions. We added staff last year,” said DeMarco.

Thomson said the Parks Commission would submit the final draft of the parks management plan during the March 26 Town Council meeting. He tasked the commission with coming up with framework for a possible fee structure for dog passes at the parks.

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