Wanted: Beach park for dogs

Camille Abbamonte is a self-professed animal lover and advocate.  A couple of weeks ago she accidently stumbled across a beach dog park in Pensacola, so she stopped to take a look.  “I was in awe of how well it went, there must have been 40-50 dogs there.  Everyone was acting responsibly, the dogs were socializing, it was great.”  She liked it so much that she returned with her three rescues.  “Within 10 minutes, all three dogs were engaged and I made a new friend.  I met some wonderful people and my dogs were having a great time,” Abbamonte said.

That trip was enough to spark an idea for Abbamonte to see if it were possible to start a similar park in Navarre.  Through some research, she found a small parcel of undeveloped county land on the sound side of Navarre Beach at the west corner of the boat ramp parking lot.  Her next step was to see if other dog owners were interested, so she created an online petition.  To date she has received more than 700 signatures on the petition.

Within a week of seeing the signatures on the petition grow, Abbamonte reached out to District 4 Commissioner Rob Williamson’s office to put the question out there.  The person who answered the phone in Milton asked about her idea and agreed to pass it along to the commissioner. “Within a couple of hours she called me back and told me that Commissioner Williamson said it might be feasible and wanted to see a proposal,” Abbamonte said.  She was more surprised when the commissioner called her personally the following day looking for the completed proposal.  “I’m on it!” Abbamonte told him.  She submitted the proposal to the commissioner who gave it to the county to determine if it would be feasible to put it into action.  Abbamonte says she should have a response from the county in a week.

“I’m amazed at this,” Abbamonte said referring to the response from the community and the quick and personal response she received from Commissioner Rob Williamson.

Navarre currently has two dog parks but none with beach access.  Abbamonte says the two parks, located near the Navarre Youth Sports Association complex are nice but they are small.  “The difference with this one is it would have beach access for the dogs, and a nice environment for us to take them to.  It would be good for the dogs and their owners.”

In the information section for the petition, Abbamonte says, “We all want to come to the beach with our fur babies but we want a safe secure area for them to play and for us to socialize.  We can get to know our neighbors who share a common love of our pets and allow our pets to have much-needed socialization and exercise.”

Abbamonte left the proposal open to other locations for consideration by the county.  While more than 700 people have signed the petition, there are those that are not in favor of the proposed location and one of the reasons has to do with the nesting shore birds that come to the beach each spring and summer.  The shorebirds, which include least terns, snow and Wilson’s plovers and black skimmers – the least terns come from as far away as Central and South America – arrived in the middle of March and will be around until late August.

Kenny Wilder, a certified Florida Master Naturalist for Coastal Systems, says that while the idea has good intentions, it would be better to consider having a dog park on the north shore of the Santa Rosa Sound that runs parallel with Navarre Parkway.

“I am 100 percent against any proposed dog park on our barrier island that includes Navarre Beach, Navarre Beach Marine Park, the north shore of the Navarre Beach known as Santa Rosa Sound and the Navarre Beach Bridge Causeway,” Wilder said in an email to Navarre Press.

He went on to say, “A dog park would cause great harm to our shorebird nesting areas,” he added.  “The dogs would cause great harm to the nesting areas of the adult black simmers, least terns, plovers and other shorebirds.  This would create a predator situation for the shorebirds.”

The Gulf Islands National Seashore has made significant efforts to ensure the safety of the migratory birds during their nesting season, including reducing the speed limit to 25 mph through the parks.  The Seashore will also once again be working with the State University of New York to track the shorebirds in the area and determine how many return each year.

As seen in the April 21 issue of Navarre Press. Click HERE to subscribe today!

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