Local owners will need to wait a little longer to take Fido to the beach.
Sarnia wants to establish a dog-friendly beach where, when the pandemic is over, pooches can doggy paddle to their heart’s delight.
But public meetings allowing citizens to weigh in are postponed until further notice, says Ryan Chamney, Sarnia’s recreation and planning manager.
Nearly 100 online surveys were submitted, with some supporting and some opposed to the project, he said.
The online survey is now closed and staff is preparing a report for council.
But a public consultation is also needed to help choose the location, times, and other details. The city is consulting with the off-leash dog park committee as well, he added.
Coun. Bill Dennis, who proposed the idea, said many city residents have long wanted a dog-friendly beach.
“It’s just a question of the best location, and I think it’s important that we talk to the neighbours to understand the possibility of any particular location,” he said.
Before COVID-19 forced a shutdown of beaches, staff had recommended a one-year pilot project and identified “The Cove” at the west end of Canatara Beach as the best candidate.
Marking off The Cove as a designated dog-friendly zone would avoid the risk of adjacent Canatara Beach losing its coveted “Blue Flag” status, an international designation of excellence it has maintained since 2014, staff said.
But after The Cove was cited as a leading contender, nearby residents strongly objected online. As a result, staff is now expected to return to council with recommendations following the public input period.
At an earlier council meeting, Coun. Margaret Bird suggested allowing dogs on all municipal beaches, but only during certain hours, such as early and late in the day.
“I love animals… but I also am a swimmer and I like to use the beach, and not everybody is as careful with dog excretables as they should be,” she said.
Complicating the issue is Lake Huron’s record high water levels, which have eroded or covered over many beach areas.
Canatara is one of only 26 Canadian beaches to earn the Blue Flag eco-label, which demands high water quality and prohibits domestic animals on the sand.
A Doggy Paddle Beach Fest was held at Canatara in 2018 but it required special permission.