Naples reviewing possibility of allowing dogs on Lowdermilk Park beach
Naples residents would be able to bring the whole family to the beach, including the family members with four legs and a tail, under a proposal being reviewed by a city advisory board.
Cindy Myers of Naples has asked the city to allow dogs off-leash at the beach in front of Lowdermilk Park during early morning hours. Currently, the city prohibits dogs on the beach unless they're service or police dogs.
Specifically, Myers proposed allowing dogs at Lowdermilk Park beach from sunrise to 8:30 a.m., Monday through Friday. Unleashed dogs would be allowed on the beach but would be required to stay on a leash through the park until they reach the sand.
"There are many cities across the state that allow off-leash dogs on the beach, and they've had great success with it," she told the city's Community Services Advisory Board last week. Those beaches include Panama City Beach and Jupiter Beach.
The closest beach to Naples where dogs are allowed off-leash is Bonita Beach Dog Park. People also frequently bring their dogs to Keewaydin Island, a coastal barrier island south of Naples
Dog's delight: Naples a top city to visit with your canine, report says
Myers said there are many benefits to allowing dogs in public places, including encouraging people to socialize and exercise.
"There are academic studies that continue to indicate that the presence of dog owners and their dogs in public spaces is a socializing influence," she said.
From Brent Batten: Two reasons not to let Lowdermilk Park go to the dogs
"It's also a very socializing influence for many of our senior citizens; for those people who live alone, the dog is really their only social activity and they're able to have basically a community that they can rely on and talk to and get out and exercise."
Myers said she understands there may be concerns related to allowing dogs on the beach, primarily that they may disrupt sea turtle nests. She suggested putting wire mesh cages around the sea turtle nests to protect them from dogs, the same technique used to deter wildlife predators.
However, Maura Kraus, coordinator of the county's sea turtle monitoring program, said she’s opposed to allowing dogs on the beach during sea turtle nesting season, which is May 1 through Oct. 31.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” Kraus told the city advisory board. “When sea turtles lay the eggs, they secrete a juice to protect the eggs, but it has a smell that dogs are attracted to. And if there’s a storm event, we could miss a nest and a dog would eventually find it.”
Kraus also noted that installing cages around the nests is a labor-intensive process that costs approximately $200,000 a year.
Stephanie Molloy, the city’s natural resources director, shared Kraus' concerns.
“During sea turtle nesting season, I would not be supportive of (dogs on the beach) at all. Or at the bare minimum, perhaps having an on-leash restriction during sea turtle nesting season,” she said.
Advisory board member Kathy Swingley said she reached out to 20 of her friends — 18 dog owners and two former dog owners — to get their opinions on allowing dogs on the beach, and she was surprised that the majority of them said no.
“Of the 20 people, only four were (in favor) and 16 were really quite adamant against it,” she said. “Some of the reasons that my friends gave (included) biting … attacks, the turtle nest concerns (and) poop.”
Swingley also said there’s no way to ensure the dogs would stay within the designated area.
“The dogs don’t know where Lowdermilk Park ends,” she said. “They could continue on somewhere else and be out of the area."
Board member Derek Perry said that Lowdermilk Park may not be the ideal location for a dog beach anyway.
"I hesitate to create any attraction at Lowdermilk Park because as many people know, parking there is already a disaster," he said. "Parking at much of our beaches throughout the year is very difficult."
In case you missed it: Naples couple's rescue of shelter pup to be featured on CBS's 'Lucky Dog'
He recommended that the city talk with Collier County officials about allowing dogs at Clam Pass, where the county has a park, because it's more secluded than many of the city's beaches.
"I think that our parks do more than their fair share for the county and so maybe this could be an opportunity as a city resident to look at the county and say, 'Hey, what are your parks doing for us?'" Perry said.
Dana Souza, director of the city's community services department, said he and his staff will do more research into allowing dogs on the beach, including reaching out to the county about Clam Pass, and report his findings at the board's meeting on Oct. 15. A public hearing on the issue might be held Nov. 19.