OCEAN CITY — Despite support from some residents, tourists and a former Pennsylvania governor, Keith Hartzell’s “dogs at dusk” proposal is dead.
The at-large city councilman first gauged how Mayor Jay Gillian and council members felt about allowing dogs on the beach during the summer at a June 23 council meeting. He brought it up again on July 14, saying he was researching the idea, and that it would be something he would try to “champion” for the summer of 2017.
But after the idea recently caused a large stir on the web and on social media, Hartzell said he will no longer pursue it.
“The whole idea of it was to get people’s opinion,” Hartzell said Thursday, Sept. 15. “Nothing was written. I wasn’t trying to pass a law. I brought it up twice in council and nobody said boo.”
Hartzell said the flurry of media attention and reaction from residents and out-of-towners over the last week caused him to re-think the idea. He said the majority of the feedback appeared positive.
He even took a call from former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a summer homeowner on the island who told Hartzell he loved the idea.
But the negatives, including enforcing the use of leashes and the potential for dog waste littering the beach in-season, became too much.
“How do you enforce the leash part of it and how do you enforce picking up the remains? I had to be confident that would happen, and I’m not confident that would happen,” Hartzell said.
Ocean City allows dogs on its beaches from Oct. 1 to April 30. Once the summer nears, canines are banned at all hours.
There is a dog park behind West Avenue on 45th Street, but none of the beaches here are designated for dogs.
Hartzell said he brought his idea forward to allow dogs on the beach in the evening after residents had asked him if Ocean City allows dogs on the beach during summer.
He liked the idea, at first, because he believes a high percentage of residents own dogs, he said.
But the negative comments Hartzell received on social media and by email and phone even came from residents who own dogs, he said.
“They didn’t think other dog owners would clean up,” he said.
He also said he didn’t think the idea of a “dog beach,” or a dog park on the beach, would work, either.
Beach towns in Cape May County, including Wildwood and North Wildwood, have areas for dogs to meander and play on the beach. Wildwood’s dog park, at the Poplar Avenue beach next to Morey’s Piers, allows dogs to play on the sand in an enclosed space.
Residents and visitors to the shore can also take their pooch to the mile-long Malibu Beach Wildlife Management Area, known to locals as the “dog beach,” on the Egg Harbor Township side of the Ocean City-Longport bridge.
In Ocean City, though, Hartzell said he thinks beachfront homeowners would object to dogs roaming in their backyard, just like those who objected to having dogs on the beach at all during the most popular time of year on the island.
At this point, he said it would take a “miracle” scenario for the city to push through a compromise that would allow it with little opposition from tourists and homeowners.
“It’s dead,” Hartzell deadpanned. “But, listen, if somebody came up with an idea and a high majority of people thought it would work, I would certainly take a look at it. But I don’t expect that to happen and I’d be shocked if it did. I don’t see it.”