The East Hampton Village Board made it clear at Thursday's meeting that it is leaning toward more restrictions when it comes to dogs on the beach.
Trustee Rick Lawler said he discussed some stricter ordinances regarding dogs on the beach with East Hampton Town Trustee Clerk Diane McNally to discuss the issue since the trustees also have jurisdiction on the beaches.
Possibilities include only allowing dogs on the beach east of Two Mile Hollow Beach and west of the westerly jetty on Georgica Beach. Another alternative is mandating that dogs be kept on a leash within 300 or 500 feet of the entrances. The current hours and times of year dogs are allowed on the beach would remain.
In East Hampton Village, the current law states that dogs are allowed on the beaches this time of year, but they are not permitted on the beach between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. from the second Sunday in May through Sept. 30.
Even in the face of $250 fines and in spite of plastic bags made available at the beach entrances, some owners leave behind their dog's business, particularly in the winter months.
Those in attendance at Thursday meeting believe some dog owners become lax during the winter months because less people use the beaches.
They said they want an opportunity to put into place new ideas that they think would help combat the problem of owners not picking up after their dogs on the beach.
Steven Gaines, a noted author and Wainscott resident who ran for East Hampton Town Board in 2011, is a regular at Wiborg's Beach in the village.
"I think the problem, by the way, is much bigger than the village," Gaines told the board. "Any tightening up you suggest I'm all for," he said. "The only thing I'm really afraid of is that somebody is going to come forward and ban dogs on the beach altogether and that would be a great tragedy. That's part of our culture, that's actually part of our heritage," he said.
This week, he started an educational organization of dog owners throughout the town dedicated to teaching dog owners to pick up after their dogs. Citizens for Responsible Dog Ownership (CReDO) would raise money, take out ads, and make people aware, much in the same way Citizens for Access Rights (CfAR) was formed in response to the infringement of beach access rights, he said. For more information on CReDO, visit its Facebook page here.
"It takes education, education, education. We've got to organize," Gaines said. He asked the board to hold off at least six months before changing the laws to give his group an opportunity, but the mayor said the board is looking to tighten some rules before the summer arrives.
The way the law is currently written, a dog may run free on the beach as long as it is under the control of its owner.
"It's so loose right now — there's no fine or law that promulgated that you're issued a citation, there's nothing in place," Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. said.
Some dog advocates were more resistent to further restriction. "It would be a shame to restrict the geography so much," said Sara Davison, the executive director, at the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, which worked the village a few years back to create a pamphlet for responsible dog walking. For instance, Wiborg's, a favorite place for dog owners to go, could be off limits.
"The issue of controlling the dog is kind of a thorny one," she said. However, "The passionate people here — it's almost a religious experience to bring their dog to the beach — are willing to work with the board," she said. "Good laws with a good crew of volunteers is a recipe for success. The most effective dog laws at the dog park and elsewhere become self policing."
"In the ideal world, everything you said makes perfect sense," Rickenbach said, but in reality, those who have ignored the rules "encumbered it for everyone else."
Kevin Reynolds, a Springs resident, said he would volunteer three times a week to police the village beaches and pick up dog poop left behind. "If the trustees could just hold off a few weeks and give us an opportunity," he said. "You'll be less likely to put more restrictions in place."
But, McNally, who attended the meeting, said she doesn't feel the ideas the village board are discussing are cutting off access to dog lovers. "This doesn't appear to be a bit change for access to the beach," she said.
How do you feel about the changes the board is discussing? How would you feel if these changes were implemented.