TOSI: Proposed Changes to Rules for Dogs on the Beach

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Earlier this year, Town Council was presented with a petition requesting certain changes to our beach ordinance, specifically regarding where and when dogs should be allowed off-leash. Over the past 8 months, Council undertook efforts to include research and recommendations from numerous stakeholder groups that included the petitioners, SEADOGS, Seabrook Island Birders, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Council is now considering changing the ordinance’s provisions that regulate the presence of dogs on the beach.

Perhaps the biggest change being considered is the elimination of the “Designated Area” northeast of boardwalk #1. During the course of Council’s examination of this issue and based on information received from our consultant, Coastal Science & Engineering, it appears that after a number of years following each relocation of the inlet to its original 1963 position (as was done first in 1983, then again in 1996 and 2015), the inlet inevitably migrates toward boardwalk #1. Following both the 1983 and 1996 relocations, the inlet migrated to a point where it ultimately infringed with both the Designated Area and the “no dog area” stipulated in SIPOA’s permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers so as to leave no room for the shorebirds’ habitat at the inlet. Our priority is to ensure we do nothing that would interfere with SIPOA’s future ability to obtain the required Army Corps permit to relocate the inlet. While relocating the inlet on a more frequent basis would overcome the impact on habitat area, neither we nor SIPOA has control over the timing of the periodic relocation. As a consequence, we have had to consider other alternatives.

One alternative is to declare all of the area to the east of boardwalk #1 off limits for dogs. The remainder of the beach would be divided into two sections: (1) from boardwalk #1 to a point 900’ northwest of boardwalk #9 and (2) from a point 900’ northwest of boardwalk #9 to Privateer Creek (the area that borders Camp St. Christopher).

As to the first area, Council has proposed a summer season of April 1st to September 30th (“Peak Season”). This is a change from the May 1st to October 30th period that is currently in place. The Peak Season months were chosen based on beach population surveys conducted by our beach patrol and consideration of the time of year when shorebirds migrate through Seabrook Island.

During the Peak Season, we have proposed an on-leash time of 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. This timeframe was chosen based on the beach population survey and concerns expressed by citizens at our August 27th Council meeting that a 9:00 am on-leash time was too early in the day. For the non-peak season (October 1st to March 31st), we had first considered an on-leash time of 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. We ultimately became convinced that, because so few people are at the beach during the late fall/early spring hours, allowing dogs to be off-leash 24/7 during this period was merited. Also, we were convinced by comments from residents that it is important to offset the planned elimination of the designated dog area beyond boardwalk #1 where dogs can now be off leash 24/7 in the winter months. This represents a change from our current ordinance requiring a 24/7 on-leash period during the Peak Season and limited off-leash hours during the non-peak period.

As to the second area, which is essentially the entire beach in front of St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center, Council was convinced that the year-round programs that draw many children to the Camp would make it appropriate to require that dogs be on-leash 24/7 year-round in this area of the beach. (Our current ordinance provides for 24/7 on-leash requirements during Peak Season and limited off-leash hours in the non-peak period for this area of the beach.)

We have prepared an ordinance incorporating the foregoing for adoption by Council. We have scheduled a Public Hearing on this issue at Town Hall at 1:00 pm on September 17th. We encourage public consideration and comment on what we have proposed. The productive discussion on this issue at our last Council meeting resulted in a refinement of Council’s position, and we would appreciate receiving your feedback.

-Submitted by Mayor Ron Ciancio, Town of Seabrook Island

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