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YARMOUTH — Dogs are now banned from Sandy Point Beach during the summer.
The Town Council, citing environmental and health hazards, voted unanimously Dec. 20 to prohibit dogs on the Cousins Island beach from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
“We fear for the children,” said David Adams, member of the parks and lands committee, which drafted the ordinance change. “There’s too many things in dog feces, all the parasites and worms. We don’t think the beach can be purified by the tide.”
Previously, there were no restrictions on dogs at the beach.
Community Services Director Marcia Noyes, who works with the committee, said there are “constant complaints” from beach-goers about dog owners not cleaning up after their pets on the beach. The summer ban is consistent with bans at other beaches in Cumberland County, she said.
“There’s other places for dogs to go,” Noyes said, noting there is access to a sandy beach through Camp Soci, also on Cousins Island. “We felt Memorial Day to Labor Day was the most reasonable and enforceable.”
Three residents expressed opposition to the ban. One of them, Sam Mangino, described himself as an “avid dog lover.”
“It would be an extreme change to just go ahead and change something that’s been around in this town for a long time – especially since we pay for a (dog) license in this town,” Mangino said. “To say from pretty much the whole summer to not be able to take your dog to a beautiful place, it just doesn’t seem realistic. That’s just taking away so much from people in the community.”
Magino suggested a compromise, such as a setting restricted hours during the day, instead of a seasonal ban.
Michelle Cromarty echoed Mangino’s concerns and said Sandy Point Beach is one of the reasons her family moved from New Hampshire to Yarmouth.
“To have it be totally off limits seems totally Draconian to me,” she said. “Let’s try something for a year and see if it works.”
Councilor Leslie Hyde said she understood the opposition to the ban, but believes the environmental concerns are paramount.
“The environmental impact is what makes this entirely different for me,” she said. “The biggest issue for me is not to penalize dogs, but to protect the environment.”
Although Councilor Andrew Kittredge voted for the ban, he said the length of the seasonal ban could be shortened.
“Who goes swimming on Memorial Day in Maine?,” Kittredge asked.
Other councilors, including Councilor James MacLeod, said they had not received any comment on the ban before the Thursday meeting.
“I have relied on the fact that the committee has done its work and I’ll listen to their recommendation,” MacLeod said.
YARMOUTH — North Yarmouth Academy is planning an initiative to bring back a small boarding program at the private school.
Rick Abbondanza, past president of the NYA board of trustees, told the Town Council the school is looking to institute a program that would house up to 24 students in the Bates House on the west side of the Main Street campus.
The program would allow the school to attract students from outside the immediate area, Abbondanza said, would add to the diversity of the school, and allow it to be more competitive with other schools that offer boarding programs, particularly in the Mid-Coast region.
Another NYA trustee, Susan Burns, said this program would supplement the school’s existing “homestay” program, which boards out-of-state and international students with Yarmouth residents.
NYA has offered boarding programs in the past, including as late as the 1970s, but ended the practice most recently because it was not profitable, Burns said.
Burns said no structural changes need to be made to the outside of the Bates House, although she noted the road near the house may need to be narrowed to slow traffic around the crosswalk.
Town Manager Nat Tupper said students in the program would not be allowed to have cars at the house due to limited parking.
NYA will seek the town’s approval next fall, although no zoning changes or exemptions have been proposed.
— Will Graff