Wildwood approves dog beach, but will require leashes

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Chuck Schumann speaks in favor of Wildwood’s dog beach with his own pup, Duffy, in tow at the May 14 meeting of the Board of Commissioners. Chuck Schumann speaks in favor of Wildwood’s dog beach with his own pup, Duffy, in tow at the May 14 meeting of the Board of Commissioners. WILDWOOD – Dogs will have a place on the Wildwood beach this summer, now that the Board of Commissioners has unanimously approved an ordinance creating a dog beach at Poplar Avenue.

The vote came at Wednesday’s meeting after commissioners heard several comments from the public on the ordinance. Some, like Jack Morey, vice president of Morey’s Piers, came out in support of the concept. Others expressed concerns about enforcement and safety, as well as the proposed location.

“I see this as a great opportunity, but also a great test year,” Morey told the commissioners. “I applaud you for taking a more liberal route than all these other conservative Jersey shore towns.”

When introduced in April, the changes to Wildwood’s beach code originally had allowed for dogs to run free on the beach in the designated area at Poplar Avenue. On Wednesday, commissioners approved the ordinance, but amended it so that dogs have to remain on a leash at all times while at the beach.

Mayor Ernie Troiano said that he had pushed for dogs to be leashed on the beach.

“I was not comfortable with dogs not on a leash,” he said.

Troiano, Commissioner Pete Byron, and Ryan Troiano, who works with the city’s department of beach services, stressed that the dog beach would draw more families to Wildwood.

“The boardwalk and beach – that’s our bread and butter,” the mayor said, adding that officials have been working to “take this big desert and turn it into revenue for taxpayers.”

Ryan Troiano said that the dog beach’s location at Poplar was chosen with the input of Wildwood Beach Patrol Chief Steven Stocks. Officials said the rules and regulations, as well as the location of the park, had been discussed since October.

“I don’t want anyone to think this has been a reckless decision,” Troiano said.

He added that a dog beach would be “a real wow factor” for potential tourists.

“We need to do something to set us apart from the competition,” he said.

Some residents still had their concerns.

Juniper Avenue’s Lana Cupo said she supported the idea of a dog beach, but had several concerns about how it would be implemented.

“I feel Poplar Avenue is heavily populated,” she said, adding that Morey’s Surfside Pier at 26th Avenue and the old Hunt’s Pier in that area make for a lot of vehicles on the beach.

“I’m not opposed to an ordinance, however, I really honestly do not feel Poplar is a good location,” she said.

Pat Berinson, who lives on Poplar, said she had a dog, but was concerned about safety.

“We’re not going to attract the nice little old lady with her dog in a basket,” she said. “We’re going to attract the teenagers with their pitbulls who are going to think it’s really cool to bring a dog to the beach.”

Dog owners at the meeting stressed that those who bring their dogs to a pet-friendly beach would most likely be responsible owners.

Lisa Sockriter, of Bennett Avenue, said that dog owners at parks often work together to keep the area clean and safe.

“I think that it’s the owner’s responsibility to take care of their own dogs,” she said.  “I am native to here, but I lived in Center City (Philadelphia), and we had large dog parks on a large scale in a large city, and we handled it. So I think it can be done here.”

Chuck Schumann, who attended the meeting with his dog, Duffy, said that this would bring more opportunities to Wildwood’s beach. Schumann is the captain of the Big Blue Sightseer in Wildwood, and thought a dog beach would be a boost to tourism.

“Many families, when they go on vacation, pick a spot they can go to with their pets,” he said. “Most dogs that travel with their families are very well mannered. I’m not sure how many of you noticed Duffy was even here. He’s been here since 5 o’clock.” It was around 6:15 p.m. when Schumann introduced Duffy at the meeting.

Under the ordinance, the area of the beach will be set by signs. To access the beach, dogs will be allowed on the boardwalk with a leash at the access ramps of Poplar and Magnolia avenues “for the limited purpose of accessing the dog beach.”

Owners are required to clean all dog waste and dispose of it in a designated dog waste trash bin, the ordinance reads. The beach patrol will have the authority to eject any dog and owner from the park “if deemed appropriate to protect the health, safety, and welfare of other dog beach patrons or beach patrons.”

A violation of the ordinance comes with a fine upwards of $200 and the loss of access to the dog park.

Mayor Troiano asked those with concerns to leave their names and contact information with Stocks, so that they could stay in touch about their apprehensions. He also asked them to help report incidents at the beach, should any occur.

The ordinance comes into effect 20 days after its May 14 approval. Byron said that the waste containers, dog cleanup bags, and signs are expected to cost about $3,500, but the city may be receiving a donation to help cover those costs.

Email Christie Rotondo at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or comment on this story at thewildwoodleader.com. 

 

A copy of the ordinance is below. It was passed Wednesday, May 14, with an amendment to subsection D. That has been changed to "dogs must be leashed at all times." This copy does not reflect that change. 



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