Monthly Archives: April 2014

BULLETIN: Part of Ferry Beach Closed to Dogs

dogblog--ferry closed

Yet another broadside has been fired in the war on dogs on Scarborough’s beaches. This time, a couple weeks after a portion of Higgins Beach was closed to both dogs and people, a large chunk of what many people consider to be Ferry Beach has been closed to dogs.

The closure of the additional beach area to dogs – leashed or not – is the doing of the Prouts Neck Country Club (“PNCC”). As you will recall, Western Beach, which is contiguous to Ferry Beach, is owned by the good folks of PNCC. They put the “No Dogs All Summer” sign up at Western Beach last year. The policy and sign were probably part of the deal with US Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) to get the sand from the harbor dredge deposited on the beach in a manner that would protect their golf course from losing a couple of holes to Old Man Tide.

Late last week, new signs went up in the middle of what most folks consider to be Ferry Beach. It turns out that PNCC’s beachfront property is more extensive than what many of us blithely assumed. A review of the Town’s tax maps shows that PNCC owns the beach (at least to the high water mark) for 750’ or so northeast of Ferry Rock.

The new sign that went up on Ferry Beach last week.

The new sign that went up in the middle of Ferry Beach last week.

Signs 1 & 2 are new.  Sign 3 was in place last year.

Signs 1 & 2 are new. Sign 3 was in place last year.  (Source: Town of Scarborough tax map; Gruntfuttock Grafix)

So PNCC was inspired this year to expand their “no dogs” area by another 750’ of beach. Which, coincidentally, is pretty close to the “protected area” that the Ad Hoc Animal Control Advisory Committee had defined on what we all thought was Ferry Beach. So apparently the AHACAC was trying to establish regulations for land the Town didn’t even control. In any event, the relentless crusade to transform Scarborough beaches into sanctuary beaches rolls on.  Higgins and Ferry have now been partially sanctuarized… can Pine Point be far behind?

Dredge Update

As I pointed out a few weeks back in “Dredging Up the Dirt,” there will undoubtedly be large incremental costs involved with stopping the dredge project as of March 31 and then restarting it after the conclusion of piping plover season (April 1 through September 15, according to USFWS). Costs which could have been avoided if the dredge completion deadline had been extended a few weeks into plover season.

At the time, I wondered aloud what the size of the taxpayers’ tab would be for preserving the option of plover nesting on Western Beach by stopping and restarting the dredge project. (Remember, none of the “little guys” honored Western Beach with their presence for the last two seasons.) Surely there is a cost at which even the most ardent bird advocate would say “Oh my, that’s too much to spend just on the possibility that a plover would nest here.”

Silly me! There is no such dollar limit! And that, gentle readers, is the nub of this whole problem – the Endangered Species Act fails to provide any commonsense balance in the efforts to preserve and promote threatened species. The only time a USFWS action gets overridden is when it is so egregious that public outcry gets a US Senator or Representative to intervene. (See the recent Camp Ellis jetty experience, for example.) So perhaps if we had a Town Council that actually represented the citizens of the Town, Washington officials could have been persuaded to call the USFWS dogs off (to use a poor choice of words). Oh, well.

In our current situation at Western Beach, I understand that the US Army Corps of Engineers, who are conducting the dredge project, have not even calculated the additional costs associated with the dredge stop/restart. So clearly cost could not have been one of the elements weighed in the decision to stop the project as of March 31. All that mattered was the unlikely possibility that a plover might arrive. And for this possibility, no cost was too great.

[A footnote: As of this writing on April 21, I do not believe a piping plover has been sighted on Western Beach.]

Western Beach “Nourishment” Update

After NALCO, the dredge contractor, was ushered out of town in early April, a rather unbeachlike pile of sand was left on Western Beach. Curiously, or perhaps not so, the dredged sand had been deposited right at the spot on the beach where tidal erosion has historically most affected the golf course. In any event, the pile of dredged sand sure didn’t look like attractive plover habitat.

The sand pile at Western Beach as the dredge ended.

The sand pile at Western Beach as the dredge ended in late March.

Today, April 21, 2014, Gorham Sand & Gravel was hard at work leveling the sand pile into a more gently sloped form.  Let us hope that the resulting landscape receives the Good Scratchkeeping Seal of Approval(1).

Putting the final touches on "beach nourishment."

Putting the final touches on “beach nourishment.”

A final note about “beach nourishment” in general. That terminology has always bugged me. (And I will readily admit to being easily bugged.) It just sounds so Disney-esque. Like a platoon of pixies will be flitting in and dispensing little bursts of magic, vitamin-fortified sand. When, in fact, beach nourishment consists of huge, diesel-powered machinery messing with tons of sand and in the process wreaking havoc with the “natural” beach ecosystem. It’s really not that pretty a sight.

(1) This was a feeble attempt at plover humor. A ‘scratch” is what a piping plover’s nest – such as it is – is known as. I know, I know; when you have to explain a joke, it ain’t that funny. But I couldn’t help myself. Sorry.

Thank you!

I can’t say this often enough – thanks to all of you who read, comment on, follow and share this blog! And thanks also for the many kind words of encouragement. It is heartening to know that so many people share the concern for continuing fair and reasonable access to Scarborough’s beautiful beaches. Thank you!

 

 

Advertisements

Audubon Proclaims “Year of the Dog”

dogblog--year of the dog

Ah, yes, the good folks at Maine Audubon are doing their best to make an alleged piping plover death at Pine Point Beach in July, 2013 into a disaster of Biblical proportions. In fact, the 2013 edition of their Piping Plover and Least Tern Newsletter is headlined: “The Year of the Dog: Maine Piping Plovers Overcome Challenges in 2013.”

To quote from the story: “The biggest news of the season is the unfortunate death of a plover fledgling caused by an unleashed dog on Pine Point Beach in Scarborough…” Lest you wonder where they stand on the issue of off-leash dogs on beaches, “Maine Audubon encourages towns to ban dogs on beaches throughout plover season, or at very least, require dogs to be leashed during the plover season [emphasis added].” You will recall that “plover season” runs from April 1 through September 15. So feel free to enjoy playing and swimming with your dog on the beach after the spring and summer are over.

It’s only in the last paragraph of the lead story that Maine Audubon finally gets around to sharing a bit of good news: “In sum, Piping Plovers successfully fledged 85 chicks on Maine’s beaches in 2013, a whopping 21 more fledglings than last year.” In fact, though Audubon doesn’t mention it, there were more chicks fledged in 2013 than in any year since 2002. A less cynical presentation of the year in review might have been headlined: “Plovers have best year since 2002,” rather than vilifying man’s best friend.

But Maine Audubon has a generous side as well. In the same vein as Councilor Donovan suggesting that owners take their dogs to Old Orchard Beach for off-leash time in the summer, Audubon’s Newsletter provides a short list of spots “where pets and their owners can enjoy the outdoors together.” Two of the locations are dog parks (don’t get me started on dog parks!) and three are Scarborough Land Trust properties. How magnanimous of Maine Audubon to offer the Land Trust’s properties! (My email to Scarborough Land Trust inquiring about their policy on off-leash dogs hasn’t been responded to.)

So, according to Maine Audubon, piping plovers overcame challenges in 2013. And in the 2012 Newsletter last year the headline was “Plovers persevere despite a challenging year.” Those little guys sure face a lot of challenges! Hey, guess what, Audubon? It’s been a challenging year for dogs and their owners in Scarborough, too!

.

dogblog--cartoonThanks to Donna Wilson for this spot-on summary of “best practices” in beach management.

.

Let’s also hang a few numbers on this discussion just for a bit of perspective. Here’s a graphic presentation of Scarborough’s dog and piping plover populations:

dogblog--dogs-ppl-chartAnd let’s not forget – there are human beings that go along with all those dogs. Rarely have so many been so restricted for so few.

.

Today’s Town Hall Riddle: When is an ordinance not an ordinance?

I don’t believe I was the only one scratching my head when last week’s Council agenda was released and the proposed new animal control ordinance appeared broken up into a resolution and an ordinance. Although I am not a student of parliamentary procedure, I found the explanation of why the Council was taking this novel approach completely unconvincing. Something about ordinances not lending themselves to graphics or maps, was it? Huh? Where do the Town’s Charter or the Council’s rules say that an ordinance must be graphics-free? (I always thought resolutions were for ceremonial and non-binding sort of things. You know, like making April “Piping Plover Month” in Scarborough.)

Far be it from me to question the motives of the esteemed Council, but one can only imagine why this resolution/ordinance format was employed. As if the proposed Sanctuary Beach solution isn’t already complicated enough. And what mischief could possibly be created by a Town official having carte blanche authority to declare a “plover emergency”?

I don’t know the answers to the following questions, but wish I did:

1. Has the Town ever used this linked resolution/ordinance format before?
2. Has any Maine municipality ever used this approach?
3. Did the Town attorney review this approach for possible drawbacks?
4. What did she say about it?
5. When one goes to look up the new regulations, where do they go? (The ordinance piece will be with the other ordinances on the Town website. But where will the resolution piece be found? In the minutes of the meeting? Seems like a bizarre way to research a regulation.)

And speaking of piping plover emergencies, here’s one…

dogblog--plover emergency

That’s probably not the sort of emergency the Council is envisioning. They’re probably thinking of something more along the lines of a chick “going missing.” Sort of an Amber Alert for the little guys.

It’s very easy to imagine a scenario where, say, a chick from a nest at the end of Higgins Beach near the Spurwink River doesn’t show up for Audubon’s roll call some morning. “Oh, oh!!! Missing chick!!! Call the Town Piping Plover Coordinator! Level 5 Piping Plover Emergency! Close the rest of Higgins Beach for a few days while we organize a search party. No dogs until further notice. Humans only with a pass signed by a beach-resident Councilor.”

Of course the little guy’s disappearance was probably a result of him having become a tasty (but not very filling) snack for a fox, skunk or gull, but what the heck. At least it will get the dogs off the beach. And that, it seems, is all that really matters.

dogblog--poetry contestPoetry contest deadline extended until April 27!

A final thought on Maine Audubon and dogs…

I confess to being a bit surprised by the sharpness of Maine Audubon’s public communications singling out of dogs as a major threat to piping plover success. Maine Audubon knows as well as you and I that dogs are near the bottom of the plovers’ threat list. Yet they portray dogs as a major villain to the species.

At some point – and perhaps we’re very close now – Maine Audubon members who are also dog owners may think twice about renewing their membership in an organization that is so clearly anti-dog. Considering that there are around 200,000 dog-owning households in the state, Maine Audubon’s stridence on the dogs/plovers issue could well have a negative impact on their membership level.

dogblog--public hearing[Editor’s note: You can’t imagine how much restraint it took not to put a different image here. But as you know, “dignified” is our watchword here at ScarboroughBeachesAlert.com.]

Until next time, peace.

BULLETIN — Closure of Part of Higgins Beach

dogblog--higgins closedYes, indeed, the eastern end of Higgins Beach is now officially closed. Not just to off-leash dogs. Not just to leashed dogs. But to us good ol’ human beings as well. Yup… BEACH CLOSED.

On or about April 4, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (“MDIFW”) staked off the eastern end of the beach and installed “No Trespassing” signs. No dates were specified so one can only assume that this piece of beach has permanently entered “Sanctuary Beach” status.

031Admittedly it is not a large portion of the beach. And it is State property. Although as State residents and taxpayers, shouldn’t we have some say in the matter? Or at least get notice that this was going to happen? No, that’s not the way MDIFW works. Like the US Fish and Wildlife Service on the Federal level, MDIFW is a law unto itself. It is, you must remember, all about the birds.

The Bird Extremist’s Continuum of “Beach Management”

Now at least part of Higgins Beach has reached the goal the bird extremists have for ALL our beaches.

So now all that talk of a “slippery slope” seems a bit more real, doesn’t it? Last year we saw privately-owned Western Beach become no-dogs-all-summer, apparently as part of the beach nourishment/golf course protection deal. Now a chunk of Higgins Beach is closed to all. Chalk up another one for the bird extremists.

It will be interesting to see what steps MDIFW takes on Scarborough Beach, the majority of which is State-owned property. Or perhaps they’ve already closed it and I just don’t know about it…

Poetry Contest Announced

dogblog--bullwinkle-poetry

.

 .

[Editor’s note: Given the highly creative and literate leanings of many of this blog’s readers, we are pleased to offer this outlet for those talents.]

 

Robert Frost famously wrote: “Good fences make good neighbors.” Well, maybe. Some Scarborough residents might take issue with that sentiment. Nevertheless, to celebrate “good fences” and the arrival of spring, ScarboroughBeachesAlert.com is pleased to announce our first contest for readers. We are looking for the best limerick on the theme “The $8,000 Fence.”

The Grand Prize is an email subscription to the Maine Audubon Society’s “News and Notes” and a copy of my email to former Town Councilor Judy Roy that earned me a stiff rebuke.  (Based on her public comment at the last Council meeting, one might speculate that Ms. Roy is at the beginning of a quest to join the Council again.  Do we need another Councilor who values MDIFW/USFWS guidelines over the voice of the people?  But I digress.)

Entries must be in standard limerick form, be suitable for family reading and be free of libelous content. Entries should be submitted to tthannah@yahoo.com and are due by 5pm on April 15. The decision of the judges is final. No purchase necessary. Residents of New Mexico may not participate. All entries become the property of CloudMedia LLC. Rules and deadline subject to change.

dogblog--coming attractions

Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter. Topics will include:

• The Year of the Dog
• Ordinance or Resolution – You Decide
• Western Beach Project Update
• Are You Prepared for a Plover Emergency? Five Things You Should Know.