The dogs-on-beach conversation will spend a little more time making the rounds at the Santa Rosa Island Authority. The beach advisory board decided last night to let its Architectural and Environmental Committee hammer out some tighter specifics before passing along a recommendation to the Escambia County Commission.
“Everything starts with an idea,” said Tammy Bohannon, SRIA board member and chairman of the lower committee. “You know, when you say you want to go to the moon, you don’t know how you’re going to get there.”
The island authority is currently considering if dogs should be allowed on certain areas of Pensacola Beach. By the end of last night’s second public hearing—which was considerably mellower than the first—most of the board members sounded intrigued with the concept, or at least willing to do some additional homework on the subject.
“I think it would actually be good for tourism,” noted SRIA member Elwyn Guernsey. “I’m kind of coming down in favor of this.”
Members of the public spoke both in favor and opposition of the proposed dog parks on the beach. While proponents want a place for their pet to play at the beach, skeptics asked the SRIA to consider environmental and safety concerns.
Pat Crib, who volunteers at the beach’s visitor center, said that dog waste would be an issue. She asked the board members to imagine a scene in which a child comes across the waste on the beach.
“He runs up to his mom and says, ‘look what I found, mom,’” Crib said. “Is it gonna be a starfish? A seashell? Is it going to be what we call dinosaur eggs and yellow snow?”
Paul Barrett told the board that other locales cater to dog-owners. He said there were not enough places in the area that people were allowed to take their dogs.
“On the weekend, my family and my wife, we basically sneak around in Escambia County looking for a place to walk our dog,” Barrett said. “The funny thing is, we run into other people out there sneaking around. It’s like we’re all outcasts.”
The man relayed South Walton’s dog-beach policy. He had a copy of the county’s policy and suggested it’d work for Pensacola Beach.
“We could cut and paste Grover Robinson’s name there, sign it, and we’d all be done tonight,” he said.
The SRIA public hearing also featured several environmentalists. The president of a local Audubon Society chapter raised concerns about nesting grounds, while the director for the Emerald Coastkeepers said he thought the notion was “well planned.”
Karen Sindel, who originally brought the proposal forward, also presented SRIA members with information she had received from local health officials. They had suggested conducting water-quality tests to ascertain the impact a dog beach was having on the environment.
The island authority is an advisory board. When it has finished exploring the concept of allowing dogs on the beach, the board will make a recommendation to the county commission, where the final decision will be made.
“You’re sort of playing New Haven here,” explained SRIA Chairman Dave Pavlock. “When you’re playing Broadway it’ll be downtown at 221 Palafox Street.”