Update: We are sorry to report that no compromise was reached on the dog issue. Contact County Commissioners for comments.
The current draft plan proposes a year-round, zero-tolerance policy for pets on Shell Key. The county says that existing signs have been ineffective in keeping dogs out of restricted areas – and environmentalists point out that the 2 month ban does not cover the 6 month nesting season.Opponents of this plan say that it is not rational to go from a practically unenforced 2-month ban- directly to a zero-tolerance policy because we have not tried any intermediate steps.
There is a solution…
6 month ban + Effective Signage = Viable Compromise
Since the primary complaint about the current 2-month pet ban policy is that it does not cover the full 6 month summer nesting season, we have suggested that the ban be expanded to 6 months as an alternative to a year-round zero-tolerance policy.
UPDATE: We also support the creation of a dog area to coincide with the southern camping area. This area could allow dogs for 10 months (excluding critical nesting months). The southern area is further from the bird protection areas and limiting dogs to the same area as camping is a clear and enforceable solution. Unlike the north island, the border that separates the southern camping area and the bird protection area is a narrow passage far from bunces pass. There is little or no boater access to this part of the southern public use area so people and their dogs are rarely close to this boarder. While the north island is intermingled with the BPA’s, the south area has a natural border that keeps people and pets far away.
The image above illustrates our design for signs that will clarify the rules for dog owners. The signs in combination with our 6-month compromise – and the planed increase of the restricted wildlife area – will have a significant impact on preservation while still allowing some access to the family dog. It has been pointed out that allowing dogs during the winter months will still pose a threat to wintering shorebirds. However, we still think this is a reasonable compromise since there are far fewer visitors during the winter months – and the consequences of disturbing wintering shorebirds would be lessthan during the critical summer nesting season – and the proposed new signs would still serve to minimize intrusions by dogs in the protected areas all year round.
Clear and Simple: Local residents who are regular visitors to Shell Key will quickly learn the rules. Those out-of-towners to come on holiday weekends will be deterred by the signs. If they are not deterred, the law enforcement challenges would be the same as under a year-round ban.
We intend to have a “mockup” of our proposed signage solution at the Sept. 11th meeting. If you agree with our compromise position, contact the county to let them know – or come to the county workshop on the 11th to support our ideas.