Charlotte Kent's Once Beautiful Property

Conservation Commission Sticks Police Department
With Enforcing Rules For Thousands of Dogs
December 7, 2015 issue by Reporter Mary Ann Bragg

SOUTH ORLEANS — Lucy, a 15-month-old black Lab on a pink leash, dug in the dirt at the entrance of Kent’s Point Conservation Area. It was early Saturday morning and she’d just been nipped by another dog.

She yelped and ran, but appeared to be OK, said owner Patrick Bassett, who brings her to the town conservation area to help her learn to be around other dogs.

“It’s very dog friendly,” Bassett said. “Everybody brings their dogs here.”

With the town’s adoption on Oct. 27 of an updated management plan for Kent’s Point, some dog owners might be getting nipped themselves. As part of the updated plan, the police intend to make daily rounds to enforce the town animal control bylaw.

I can tell you the police department will respond appropriately,” Orleans Police Chief Scott MacDonald told the Board of Selectmen Tuesday Dec. 2. “We want to educate people on the bylaw. We will have daily patrols, weather permitting.”

*See note below

The updated Kent’s Point management plan relies on the town’s existing animal control bylaw to guide dog owners in how to handle their animals in the conservation area. The bylaw requires that, in a public park such as Kent’s Point, a dog must either be on a leash or under the control of a responsible person. The bylaw also stipulates that a dog owner must remove his or her dog’s waste. The first violation of anything in the bylaw results in a $25 fine, with $50 assessed for subsequent violations.

The 28-acre conservation area, a quarter-mile off Monument Road, was bought by the town in 1988 for $1.8 million for public use and to prevent a housing development, according to town records. The land, once the home of Charlotte Kent, is under the management of the Orleans Conservation Commission.

Previous management plans dating from 1995 had stricter rules, such as requiring leashes on most trails and prohibiting dogs altogether on a beach trail, according to town records. That went largely unenforced, however, and the area has long been known as a place to let dogs run free.

Police enforce the animal control bylaw at all the town’s conservation areas but will focus more attention on Kent’s Point because of its popularity with dog owners, MacDonald said in a phone interview Saturday.

There are 619 dogs licensed by the town of Orleans, according to the town clerk’s office. There were at least seven dogs at Kent’s Point at 9:30 am Saturday. Most were off-leash, but with their owners.

“It’s the only place they can run,” Lloyd Oja said Saturday at Kent’s Point. Oja, who is an Orleans police officer, was with Barbara Francke and German shepherds Greta, 5, and Asa, 3. The two dogs walked without leashes next to Oja and Francke, who said the animals were under their control.

Using the town animal control bylaw allows police to apply the law on publicly-owned land in a way that is consistent with the will of town meeting, according to the recommendations of a task force formed to advise the conservation commission on Kent’s Point.

The new management plan emerged after a 10-month public process with two public hearings attended by more than 140 people, and about 40 pieces of written correspondence, according to town records. Controlling dogs was one of four problems addressed in the task force’s recommendations. They also advised the conservation commission not to take a position on visitors using a private lane to access the area; that they resist efforts to change the conservation area’s address to limit access via the private lane; and that the area remain open to all, not just to Orleans residents.

At last week’s selectmen’s meeting, Selectman David Dunford asked that MacDonald also have his officers address parking complaints by neighbors by enforcing no-parking signs at Kent’s Point and preventing public parking on private land in and around the area. There are 20 spaces in the Kent’s Point parking lot and two more spaces inside the conservation area for cars with handicapped individuals, according to the new plan.

“That whole area has to work,” Dunford said. “Let’s make it work.”

* note:Chief McDonald has kept his word. Police cruisers do indeed go to Kent's Point daily. However, if called they can only respond AFTER a dog bite/fight or some other infraction has occurred. Their daily drive-throughs only intimidate the law-abiding folks whose dogs are already either leashed or under control.

Keep in mind that on a trail that is only 6-8 feet wide in places, a dog on a 6 foot leash can still intimidate or attack another dog on a 6 foot leash or even someone who is just walking by.

By allowing and condoning dogs, leashed or unleashed, on the Kent property the Town is knowingly and willfully disregarding the safety of both the visitors and the dogs as well.

That, of course, is in addition to its refusal to follow existing rules to protect and preserve the property and ALL its assets.

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