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.
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?
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.
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).
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.
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!
Thanks so much for your updates TT!
Thank YOU for reading the blog!
You writing is wonderful, the satire is “awesome”. I think there is a book here, I would certainly buy it.
Thanks very much for that nice compliment. In fact, I am currently working on the e-book, tentatively titled “Jonathan Livingston Plover.” A special hardcopy edition is also planned; it will produced on the world’s last functioning mimeograph machine. Thanks again!
Thanks for all your humor when it is badly needed.
I would like to attend you first paw signing.
There are a couple of questions will the Road Runner, and Wile E. Coyote have a chapter? Is there any thought about Mr. Magoo and the Seven Dwarfs.
Thanks. I hope we can all maintain our senses of humor in this decidedly unfunny matter.
I’m glad you mentioned the Road Runner. As you undoubtedly know, the Road Runner (Geococcyx californianus), despite Wile E. Coyote’s best efforts, has NOT become an endangered (or even threatened) species. These little guys are positively thriving, even in the face of increased development, shrinking habitat, various ACME bombs and a rather poor avian skill set. They are an inspiration for birds everywhere, and we can only hope that the piping plovers will draw wisdom and strength from their experience. My book will certainly include a chapter on the Road Runner.
Thanks again! And beep beep!
I just discovered these signs today. Wasn’t this what we were fighting in the first place? Is it ‘ok’ because this part of the beach is privately owned? What are the repercussions if the signs are ignored? I am very upset about losing that part of Ferry. We took the dogs swimming there all last summer (at 5:30 am as to not upset ‘non-dog’ people) and were never told we couldn’t be there even though I think there was one of those signs there last year too.
Good questions. I may try to address this in a future blog entry, but for now…
From the Town tax map, it looks like Prouts Neck Country Club owns only to the high water mark from the point where Ferry and Western Beaches come together at a right angle to about where sign #1 is (i.e., the first sign you come to if you’ve entered Ferry Beach from the parking lot). So if that’s true, the State of Maine owns the intertidal zone (the beach area between high and low tides) from sign #1 to sign #2. I don’t think PNCC has any authority to prohibit dogs along that specific stretch. And I am assuming that the signs all were placed there by PNCC, since the signs reference it being ok for us to “enjoy Western Beach with our dogs” beginning October 1. True, the sign have the Maine Dept of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife logo on them, but that doesn’t prove anything. (I have a cap with that same logo, but that doesn’t make me a MDIFW employee.)
My take is that the intertidal area between signs #1 and #2 is still fair game for off-leash dogs since I don’t believe the MDIFW has closed it to us. I spoke to a MDIFW employee there one day shortly after the signs went up. He told me sign #1 was merely “advisory” so that you’d know the beach was really closed to dogs starting at sign #2. I’m not sure how one could possibly come to that conclusion based on the signs.
Assuming the signs were placed there by PNCC in an attempt to assert their private property rights, then the matter of enforcement is raised. I’m quite sure MDIFW won’t enforce trespassing on private property. Will PNCC engage their own security team to enforce the no-dogs rule? How would they do that in the court system? Or would PNCC ask the Town to enforce PNCC’s private rules? (PNCC already pays the Town for extra police coverage, I believe, but that’s to enforce existing laws — like that 25 mph speed-trap on Black Point Road). My guess is that any enforcement of the existing PNCC no-dogs rule would be a very messy and expensive. On the other hand, money probably isn’t an issue for PNCC.
For now, I am considering Ferry Beach to be off-leash friendly as far as sign #2. I’ll do an emergency blog entry if I need to make bail some day…
Love to read your writing. Keep bringing the facts and common sense, or lack of. Thank you.
Will the town council do the right thing or will this ordinance come back to bite them?