Chatham Seeking to Expand Summer Dog Walking Options

CHATHAM – The Chatham Park and Recreation Commission wants to expand opportunities for dog owners to walk their pets on town beaches during spring and summer months.

But state and federal regulations that protect nesting shorebirds may hinder the commission’s proposed expansion.

As it stands, from May 1st to September 15th, residents are only allowed to walk their dogs on Jackknife Harbor Beach before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m.

Dogs are not allowed on any other town beaches during that span of time and violations can be punishable with fines of $50.

Members of the commission suggested that Lighthouse Beach could follow the rules that currently only apply to Jackknife Harbor Beach, allowing residents to walk their dogs in the early morning and evening during summertime.

According to Lyra Brennan, the assistant director of the Mass Audubon Coastal Waterbird Program, Lighthouse Beach is considered a priority habitat for rare and endangered species such as the piping plover.

“The state does this thing where they map priority habitat for rare and endangered species, all of Lighthouse Beach is mapped so it’s considered that habitat for rare species,” Brennan said.    

Coastal Resources Director Ted Keon added that in such areas, state and federal guidelines recommend pets be prohibited between April 1st and August 31st and that the guidelines are designed to prevent harm from coming to a protected shorebird, nest, or chick.

Brennan pointed out that a town in Maine was fined $25,000 for not enforcing said guidelines.

Although Audubon monitors have no enforcement authority, they try and educate people about the regulations.

Brennan said that while some people understand the rules and take their dogs off the beach, the majority of people do not.

Keon added that even though there has been a lot of bird activity on Lighthouse beach, there have been no successful nest in the past few years and that just the presence of dogs alone on the beach can discourage shorebirds from nesting.

Last year two dogs contributed to the loss of a nest on Harding’s Beach.

Lighthouse beach is also considered a beach nourishment area, and permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service require enforcement of dog regulations.

“One thing that is tricky about Lighthouse and that is actually tricky about all these beaches is that if you have a permit for re-nourishment, those permits are contingent on increased dog enforcement,” continued Brennan.    

Beaches such as the one at Outermost Harbor, where dredging is happening, are also covered by those restrictions.

Commissioner Meredith Fry proposed that the same regulations in place on North Beach Island may work for Lighthouse Beach.

On North Beach Island, dogs must be on a 30-foot leash from March 15th to September 15th and are prohibited from areas closed off due to nesting shorebirds.

Fry said a possible solution is to find a location in town for a dog park.

She requested the commission continue the discussion of a dog park in the future.

About Luke Leitner

Luke Leitner grew up in Watertown Massachusetts and now lives in West Yarmouth on the Cape. He has been a part of the news team in the CapeCod.com News Center since the spring of 2019. He studied business communications at Western New England University.



CapeCod.com
737 West Main Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
Contact Us | Advertise Terms of Use 
Employment and EEO | Privacy