tampabay.com

Dog ban on Pinellas boardwalks afoot

By THERESA BLACKWELL
Published March 13, 2007


CLEARWATER - A nip to a jogger's calf at John Chesnut Sr. Park could soon lead officials to ban dogs on boardwalks at all Pinellas County parks.

The county's park advisory board recently voted 3-2 to recommend banning dogs from boardwalks countywide, not just John Chesnut Sr. Park, where the nipping incident occurred.

Two south Pinellas parks, Sawgrass Lake Nature Park in St. Petersburg and Boca Ciega Millennium Park in Seminole, already ban dogs from their boardwalks.

A temporary ban that started at Chesnut Park last month would spread to other county parks in north Pinellas like Wall Springs Park and A.L. Anderson Park, where dogs are now allowed on boardwalks.

Joe Lupardus, Pinellas County's north district parks operations manager, had said before the meeting that he knew of no problems with dogs on the wider boardwalks at Wall Springs Park and A.L. Anderson Park, and expected them to remain open to dogs.

In October, Keith Bartley of Palm Harbor crossed paths with Louie, a 20-pound Shih Tzu mix, on a boardwalk at Chesnut Park. As Bartley jogged past Louie on the 4-foot-wide boardwalk, the dog nipped his calf. Bartley complained to park personnel after Louie's owner, Mike Guyler of Palm Harbor, refused to hit the dog on the nose to discipline him.

In February, that brought a temporary ban on dogs on Chesnut's three boardwalks. The north boardwalk was later reopened to dogs temporarily.

About seven residents attended a recent park advisory board meeting on the issue, said Paul Cozzie, Pinellas County's bureau director for the culture, education and leisure department.

Most who spoke cited concerns about meeting dogs in tight spaces like boardwalks with no escape route. Cozzie said an animal control officer and park managers also spoke against allowing dogs on boardwalks for safety and sanitary reasons.

"We're not trying to prohibit dogs in parks," Cozzie said. "It's a matter of which areas are suitable for dogs."

In the next few weeks, Cozzie said he will bring the board's recommendation to ban dogs from county boardwalks to County Administrator Steve Spratt.

"If he supports it, we will implement a dog ban," Cozzie said.

Theresa Blackwell can be reached at tblackwell@sptimes.com or 727 445-4170.