No dogs allowed

Published 9:34 pm Thursday, November 3, 2011

Off the Water photos / Craig Haupert Dogs and other pets are not allowed in the New Buffalo City parks according to a city ordinance. Members of the New Buffalo City Council are discussing the possibility of changing the ordinance to allow leashed dogs in the grassy areas near the beach.

A comment made by a New Buffalo City Council member at a recent public meeting is ruffling the feathers of some local residents.
Councilwoman Margaret “Migs” Murray said during an October meeting that leashed dogs should be allowed in the grassy areas near the city beach.
A city ordinance currently prohibits all dogs, leashed or otherwise, from stepping paw on any city beach or park in New Buffalo, save the dog park at Sari Asher Memorial Park.
Murray’s comment was supported by fellow councilwoman Susan Maroko and Nancy Smith, who sits on the Harbor Commission.
Maroko said the area they were referring to is located on Whittaker St. just before reaching the beach and running parallel to the federal channel.
“That was the only place we talked about, other than possibly the transient marina area,” Maroko said.
The discussion prompted a longtime New Buffalo resident named SI-OSIRI (it means son of Osiris) to write a letter to the editor to a local paper called the Harbor Country News.
In the letter, SI-OSIRI asks the residents of New Buffalo to support the current ordinance banning dogs from the city parks.
In an email to Off the Water, SI-OSIRI specifically accused Maroko of wanting s to use her public position to change an ordinance in order to take her dog onto park property. s
Maroko said she isn’t in it for her personal gain. She emphasized she is in favor of leashed dogs in the city park, not the city beach.
“I think like many people in the city I happen to be a dog owner. I don’t just reflect my own interest, but lots of other owners who have dogs,” Maroko said. “In the summer, we are a walking city and you see a lot of folks out and about with their dogs. Right now there are few places where leashed dogs are allowed. I’d like to see us be a more dog friendly community.”
SI-OSIRI is worried the dogs would chase away the native birds that frequent the same area. He also worries the dogs might injure someone.
“If you allow one dog in, you have to allow 100 dogs in, that would only be fair. And if you have 100 dogs, that would be chaos,” he said.
Maroko said there is always the chance of irresponsible dog owners.
“Some people will probably bring out dogs that don’t get along well with each other, and there will probably be someone that won’t clean up after their dog,” she said. “My feeling is that, for the most part, a person that is out with their dog that is on a leash is pretty responsible.”
No action has been taken on the issue. Maroko said the council is just exploring the idea.
New Buffalo has one dedicated dog park, Sari Asher Memorial Park, established in September 2009. It is located at 1420 E. Washington St., almost two miles away from the grassy area near the beach. The dog park is also a good distance from the shops downtown.
Kent Clayton, who helps run Wags & Whiskers in New Buffalo, said allowing leashed dogs in grassy areas near the beach would be a good idea in theory. Wags & Whiskers is an animal grooming and boarding service owned by Clayton’s stepdaughter Lisa Frey.
“As long as owners keep them on a leash and clean up after them it would work, but that is the big question,” Clayton said. “Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t clean up after their dogs.”
St. Joseph, a similar community to the north, allows leashed dogs to enter city parks. Owners are required by city ordinance to keep dogs on a leash no longer than six feet and pick up after them.
“It seems to work out pretty well here,” said Lt. Kerry Daniel of the St. Joseph County Police.
“For the most part, people seem to clean up after their dogs and keep them on a leash.”
St. Joseph, like New Buffalo, does not allow dogs in the city beach area. St. Joseph has a dedicated dog park in Kiwanis Park.